The Conservatives plan to tell obese people on welfare that they will lose their sickness benefit if they do not diet.
The move is the party’s latest foray into reducing welfare costs and they also want to see drug addicts and alcoholics stripped of benefits if they refuse treatment plans.
While playing to many traditional Tory voters, it will infuriate addiction and other health charities which have previously criticised similar proposals.
It could also bring the Conservatives into direct confrontation with the British Medical Association which in 2013 castigated as “draconian and sill” calls by Tory-held Westminster Council to cut the benefits of overweight people who refused exercise regimes.
David Cameron, who will announced the measure today, said obesity and addictions are treatable and that people claiming long term are choosing “a life on benefits rather than work”.
He has asked Professor Dame Carol Black, a Department of Health adviser, to carry out a review to identify how best to get long term claimants back into work and thus avoid the “unwarranted expense” of their claims.
Election Analysis: The Key Voters
Election Analysis: The Key Voters
1/6 Settled Silvers
These are the comfortably-off over-60s, still in work or drawing a decent pension – or both – who are enjoying their entitlements such as the Winter Fuel Allowance, free bus passes and free TV licence. They are worried about immigration and Europe. Both the Conservatives – who are pledging to keep benefits for wealthier pensioners – and Ukip want their votes
2/6 Squeezed Semis
Slightly older than the Harassed Hipsters, they are the second key group for Labour’s family-focused election strategy. They are married couples on low to middle incomes who own unpretentious semi-detached homes in suburban areas. In 2001, these were the Pebbledash People sought by the Conservatives. Now the pebbledash is gone and a modest conservatory has been built at the back
3/6 Aldi Woman
In 1997 and 2001 she was Worcester Woman – a middle-class Middle Englander shopping at Marks & Spencer and Waitrose. Today, the age of austerity means she still goes to Waitrose for her basic food shop but cannily switches to Aldi for her luxury bargains such as Parma ham and prosecco. Identified by Caroline Flint, she is a key target of both Labour and the Conservatives
4/6 Glass Ceiling Woman
In her thirties or forties, she has an established career under her belt, perhaps in the “marzipan layer” – one position below the still male-dominated senior executive level. She is now, according to Nick Clegg, forced into making the “heart-breaking choice” between staying at home to bring up her children and going to work and forking out for high-cost, round-the-clock childcare
5/6 Harassed Hipsters
One of the two key groups identified by Labour as crucial to hand Ed Miliband the keys to Downing Street. Well-paid professional couples, often with children, they live in diverse urban and metropolitan areas rather than the suburbs. More comfortably off than most swing voters, they are time poor – struggling to balance raising a young family with busy work schedules
These are mainly first-time voters, though some are in their twenties – students and digital-age generation renters helping to fuel the “Green Surge”. Idealists, but with no tribal loyalty to any party, they are anti-austerity, middle class, living in urban areas. Despite studying at university or recently graduated, they are struggling to find decent jobs and want cheaper housing and a higher minimum wage
The Tories estimate almost 100,000 people with “treatable conditions” such as alcoholism and obesity claim sickness benefits, costing the taxpayer about £350 million annually. Overall, there are 2.5 million claimants for sickness benefits, of whom 1.5 million have claimed for at least five years.
“Too many people are stuck on sickness benefits because of issues that could be addressed but instead are not,” the Prime Minister said. “Some have drug or alcohol problems, but refuse treatment. In other cases people have problems with their weight that could be addressed, but instead a life on benefits rather than work becomes the choice.
“It is not fair to ask hardworking taxpayers to fund the benefits of people who refuse to accept the support and treatment that could help them get back to a life of work.
“The next Conservative government is determined to make sure that the hardest to help get the support they need to get them back to a fulfilling life.”
He said of his request to Professor Black to carry out a review: “In particular, I have asked her to consider whether people should face the threat of a reduction in benefits if they refuse to engage with a recommended treatment plan — it is vital that people who would benefit from treatment get the medical help they need.”
Dame Carol said: “I am deeply interested in trying to overcome the challenges these types of benefit claimants pose. These people, in addition to their long-term conditions and lifestyle issues, suffer the great disadvantage of not being engaged in the world of work, such an important feature of society.”
The proposal is in line with previous Tory crackdowns on welfare, such as the authority given to Jobcentre Plus by Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith to cut jobseeker allowance of people who refused treatment for addiction.