Almost 1,000 obese claimants get share of 4m a year in incapacity benefit: Two thirds have got pay-outs for more than five years
23:44 GMT, 23 December 2012
Taxpayers fork out more than 4million every single year on incapacity benefit for people who are obese, figures show.
Almost 1,000 people receive the hand-out for no other reason than they are grossly overweight – costing us 11,000 every single day. And two thirds of them have been languishing on the sick for more than five years.
Last night an obesity expert called on ministers to do more to stop ‘scroungers’ receiving sickness money on the state.
Taxpayers spend more than 4million every year on incapacity benefit for obese people
An obesity expert has now called on ministers to do more to stop 'scroungers' receiving sickness money
Official statistics also demonstrate a sharp rise in the amount paid every year in IB for drug addicts and alcoholics.
Over the past decade, no less than 1.2billion has been spent on IB for fat people and those with drink and drug addictions.
Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith, pictured, was considering bringing in welfare cash cards for addicts
It emerged last week that Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith was considering bringing in welfare cash cards for addicts, so they cannot spend their handouts on fuelling their habits. Instead, they would only be able to spend their benefits on essentials.
Chris Skidmore, the Tory MP who obtained the statistics, said they were an ‘insult to the genuinely disabled’ at whom the benefit is supposed to be aimed.
Ministers are reform sickness benefits by replacing IB with ‘Employment and Support Allowance’. All claimants will be assessed over the coming years to ensure they are as sick as they say and whether or not it is true they cannot work.
Having a particular condition, such as an addiction or obesity, will not automatically entitle a person to ESA.
Mr Skidmore’s statistics show that in 2010, the latest year for which figures are available, some 950 people received incapacity benefit because their primary health condition was listed as ‘obesity’.
Of these, 650 had been receiving it for more than five years.
The payments cost taxpayers more than 4million in 2010, or 11,000 every single day. Over the past decade, some 42million has been spent on obese IB claimants.
Mr Skidmore said: ‘It is staggering that millions is being handed out to people claiming benefits for simply being overweight, and an insult to the genuinely disabled.
‘We need a welfare system that rewards responsibility, not one which allows this to happen, which is why reform is essential.’
The figures also show that in 2010, some 83million was spent on incapacity benefit for alcoholics – up from 58million a decade before.
Some 17,330 people were on IB for alcoholism, of which 10,190 have been on it for more than five years. Over the past decade, some 748million has been spent to support alcoholics on the sick.
The amount of money spent on IB for drug addicts has almost doubled over the past decade – from 24million in 2001 to 43million in 2010. Between 2001 and 2010, some 381million has been spent on drug addicts’ IB.
Over the past decade, 1.2billion has been spent on IB for obese people and alcohol and drug addicts
A total of 8,620 drug addicts were on IB in 2010 – 5,040 of them for five years and over.
Last night, Tam Fry, a spokesman for the National Obesity Forum, said: ‘There are many valid reasons why overweight or obese people could claim incapacity benefit. GPs should know who they are however and countermand any claim they make if they are simply gross.
‘The government must get serious about tackling obesity and set a time limit for these scroungers to get back into shape for work. It should threaten to remove benefit from anyone who continues to use their excess weight as a reason not to.’
Robert Oxley, campaign manager of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said: ‘Obesity is costing taxpayers dearly. Tackling it early is vital as its it’s neither sustainable nor fair that someone is allowed to fester on benefits indefinitely because of their weight.
‘Ultimately individuals have to take responsibility for their actions and have to show they are taking steps to get back to work. For too long the benefits system was quick to write people off, it’s not fair on them or taxpayers for this to continue.’
A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions said: ‘The incapacity benefit system needed reform because it wrote too many people off to a life on benefits.
‘We are determined to do everything we can to help people with drug and alcohol problems, which is why everyone on incapacity benefit is being reassessed to see if they are capable of work.
Employment and Support Allowance looks at what a person can do, not what they can’t because we know conditions affect different people in different ways.
‘The Work Programme is designed to give tailored support to people who need long term help to get back into work.’