David Cameron has launched a welfare review looking at the benefits of people with obesity, drug and alcohol problems.
The full review is going to determine whether the thousands of obese people, and those with drug and alcohol issues should have their benefits cut if they turn down government-provided treatment.
It was first outlined back in February, initially only including obese people, but has been expanded to now include the cost of drug dependency and alcoholism. Dame Carol Black is in charge of the review, and admits that there’s some strong ethical views at stake.
The consultation paper highlights that it’s not to be a punishment, but to “consider how best to support those suffering from long-term yet treatable conditions back into work or to remain in work”, and is to “establish the role such treatable conditions play in causing worklessness and estimate the associated cost to the exchequer and the economy”.
Dame Black’s review states that “long-term conditions such as drug addiction and alcohol dependence, or obesity, can seriously affect people’s chances of taking up and remaining in rewarding employment”.
The paper says:
While many long-term conditions are potentially treatable, the current system fails to ensure everyone receives effective healthcare or specialist employment support. This keeps many people out of work – trapping them in worklessness and welfare dependency.
For about 90,000 people claiming employment and support allowance, their illness is primarily due to their drug or alcohol addiction. Of these, about 8,000 have been claiming incapacity benefits for five years or more.
Current government estimates suggest:
Harmful alcohol consumption costs about £3.5bn per year to the NHS, £11bn in crime and more than £7bn to the economy in lost productivity, and the societal costs of drug addiction are estimated to be £15.4bn.
The full review is to be completed by the end of the year.
Currently, there is no requirement for people with treatable problems to get help under the existing system, but depending on the outcome of the review, it’s very likely that could change.
It’s difficult to argue against the motive behind it. On a personal level, people are getting help with their health, which in turn could help them back into employment, and in the bigger picture, more people are getting back into work and thus cutting down the benefits bill.
Where do you stand on this?