Iain Duncan Smith: Squeezing the truth

Tory obesity ‘crackdown’ would hit just 1,780 people

Tory obesity ‘crackdown’ would hit just 1,780 people

The Conservative party this weekend announced a 'crackdown' on obese people claiming to be unable to work.

Under the plans, the government would throw obese people who refuse treatment off benefits in an apparent attack on 'the something for nothing culture'.

Defending the policy on the Andrew Marr show today, Iain Duncan Smith claimed there were "lots" of people currently in this position.

So how many people would actually be affected by this new 'crackdown' and how much of an issue is this in the first place?  Well thankfully we can work it out.

According to government figures released by the DWP last month, there was a total of just 1,540 people claiming employment support allowance on the basis of obesity last year. That's right, just 1,540.

A further 240 obese people claimed incapacity benefit or severe disablement allowance. So that's a grand total of 1780 claimants, or a whopping 0.002% of the UK population.

Here are the tables from the DWP.

After a week in which claims of Tory tax avoidance had dominated the campaign, this new story helpfully moved the agenda on for the party.

However, like many such similar crackdowns, the 'throw fat people off benefits' appears to have been solely designed to win headlines at the end of a difficult week.

While obesity is clearly a serious health problem in the UK, it is not a significant drain on the welfare budget. Attempts to suggest otherwise appear to have been made purely for political rather than any other reasons.