Theresa May ditches David Cameron's plan to cut benefits from obese people who refuse help to lose weight

The policy was floated by David Cameron last summer

Jon Stone
Political Correspondent
Monday 05 December 2016 18:01

The Government has dropped a plan to withdraw social security benefits from obese people who refuse help to lose weight.

David Cameron floated the idea last summer, suggesting that people who “refuse that help” to get fit or come off drugs or alcohol might face welfare sanctions.

He commissioned a review led by Dame Carol Black, chair of the Nuffield Trust and a Department of Health advisor to look into the issue of how benefits spending in that area could be reduced.

The inquiry, which reported its findings on Monday, did not recommend the policy and instead called for a “more integrated collaboration across the benefits and health system”.

On Monday evening Theresa May’s official spokesperson said Mr Cameron’s proposal to sanction the obese was “not under consideration”.

“We're not considering compelling people or looking to withdrawal benefits from people because they're obese,” the spokesperson said.

“Withdrawing benefits from obese people more generally is not under consideration.”

The spokesperson said ethical issues had been raised by the medical profession regarding the compulsion of treatment.

The report suggested people could be asked to have “structured discussion with an appropriate healthcare professional” by Downing Street suggested that there would be no compulsion involved were this idea taken forward.

Debbie Abrahams, Labour’s shadow minister for people with disabilities, said the Government should use the findings of Dame Carol’s review to provide better support for people with health problems.

“Dame Carol Black has looked carefully at the evidence and concluded that addicts should not be mandated to treatment, as this would not improve employment outcomes or meet serious legal and ethical concerns,” she said.

“The former Prime Minister’s stated intention to reduce support for people struggling with addiction if they didn’t engage with a recommended treatment plan was deemed unethical by Royal Colleges such as RCPSYCH, in addition to the fact that treatments imposed without ethical consent are more likely to fail.

“Instead, the Government should now look at using Dame Carol’s recommendations to better support people with addictions through the health service and social security system to help improve their lives and employment prospects.”

In July of this year David Cameron said: “We must look at what we do when people simply say no thanks and refuse that help but expect taxpayers to carry on funding their benefits.

“Over the next five years I want to see many more people coming off sick benefit and into work.”

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