Obese people are costing the government £8m a year in incapacity benefits, according to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).
Anne McGuire, minister for disabled people, said that in each year from 2000-01 to 2004-05, the government paid out roughly £8m to people on incapacity benefits “whose primary diagnosis was obesity”.
The DWP said the average total cost of incapacity benefit had soared to £12.5bn a year, including severe disablement allowance and income support with a disability premium.
The payment structure for incapacity benefits, received by 2.7 million people, has been widely criticised by government ministers for giving claimants no incentive to return to work.
Work and pensions secretary, John Hutton, said last week that his aim in reforming the benefit was not to cut costs or force people to take employment but to “sensitively and carefully” help them back into work.
The DWP estimates that it has paid out £40m over the past five years in benefits for overweight people.