Whilst we enter the New Year with high hopes and goals of all different varieties, it is this time of year at which most people pledge to a month of dieting or detoxing. Being a slightly hefty individual myself I appreciate this feeling or need all too well.
However, it has been divulged in recent weeks that this feeling is also near the top of agendas in Westminster council, with the revealing of a new Local Government policy in which obese members of the community will have their social living and welfare benefits decreased or withdrawn totally, if they are deemed not to be pursuing a more healthy and active lifestyle.
This idea has already sent many people into fury on Social Networking websites, who feel more and more alienated by this current Government which continues to navigate a rocky spell in popularity amongst the British public. It is also the threat of taking away NHS healthcare for any subsequent diseases suffered by those deemed to be obese which has sent some people into a frenzy, and questioning the welfare state which helps drunks and drug addicts unconditionally. This is however, obviously a last ditch measure to persuade people into a more healthy and active lifestyle, which seems to be nothing but a good thing.
…an intrusion on free will…
Council tax and housing benefits are to be used to ‘reward and incentivise’ individuals where a GP has prescribed a course of exercise at leisure centres who partake in the new scheme, to enforce this will require ‘Smart Cards’ which track an individual’s activity these centres. This campaign foreshadows the transfer of responsibility for Community well-being from the NHS to local authorities, therefore it could be seen that the authority in Westminster is attempting to make it clear that healthy living is going to be a priority on their agenda.
Public reaction to this has been mostly negative. Many see this as an intrusion on free will, many people out there are very happy with their size and also there is a sense of unfairness in this new campaign especially the fact that NHS healthcare may be withdrawn. Concerns have been raised questioning whether this is all a little bit Elitist? Telling people how they should look and feel?
…a healthier lifestyle leads ultimately to happiness in life…
Not really in my opinion, some people are arguing it’s striving to make everyone the same or superior in an athletic and health sense. But this campaign surely has the best intentions at heart, improving public health, possibly prolonging life and as many studies have shown, a healthier lifestyle leads ultimately to happiness in life. By using local Leisure centres, and Swimming baths it will also help individuals actively seek out a healthier lifestyle, which may in turn even bring them employment benefits and opportunities.
This scheme of course looks to aid those deemed to be obese in the UK, and doesn’t attack those with a form of disability benefits-wise and at the same time lightening the burden on the Welfare state, an important measure in the current Economic climate. Obesity costs the NHS £5.1bn each year on average, with 26% of Women and 24% of Men being diagnosed as being obese, whereas this number shoots up to 58% of Women and 64% of Men in the UK deemed to be overweight or obese.
…the issue of obesity is a burden on the NHS…
It is clear therefore that the issue of obesity is a burden on the NHS as well as the Welfare system, just as unemployment is too, and although it is a far more sensitive and personal subject, I do not regard this any differently to an employment drive at the Local job centre. In theory it is only trying to help the individuals in society. However, I believe it may be far too progressive and idealistic in nature for the British public to grasp it enthusiastically, unfortunately in Britain today there is an attitude amongst a significant minority of the public which prefers to live life on the Welfare system, unwilling to accept help which is ultimately geared to improving their quality of life.
All stats provide by the Health Survey for England