Obese benefit payments could be linked to exercise levels

Fri, 04 Jan 2013
Obese people at risk of type 2 diabetes could have their benefits cut under new proposals designed to encourage people to improve their health and reduce the financial burden of obesity-related diseases on the NHS.

The proposals, set out in a new report by Westminster Council and think tank the Local Government Information Unit, include linking benefit payments from obese claimants' to their lifestyles.

New technologies such as smart cards could be used to monitor claimants' use of leisure centres and gyms. Those who refuse to carry out exercise prescribed by their GP would be penalised by having their housing and council benefit payments cut.

"Relocalisation of council tax benefit and housing benefit combined with new technologies provide an opportunity for councils to embed financial incentives for behaviours that promote public health," the report states.

"The increasing use of smart cards for access to leisure facilities, for instance, provides councils with a significant amount of data on usage patterns.

"Where an exercise package is prescribed to a resident, housing and council tax benefit payments could be varied to reward or incentivise residents."

The plans are aimed at helping local councils meet the financial challenges posed by rising levels of obesity and huge budget cuts following the transfer of responsibility for community wellbeing and public health from the NHS to local authorities in April.

According to latest health figures, around one in four people in the UK are obese, while 65 per cent of men and 58 per cent of women are either overweight or obese.

Obesity is linked to increased risk of type 2 diabetes, heart and liver disease and some cancers. Treatment of these conditions costs the NHS an estimated £5.1bn per year.
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