Tories explore benefit curbs for addicts and obese

17 Feb 15
David Cameron has said a future Conservative government would consider cutting benefits for people with conditions such as drug and alcohol addiction or obesity if they do not agree to treatment.

By Richard Johnstone | 17 February 2015

David Cameron has said a future Conservative government would consider cutting benefits for people with conditions such as drug and alcohol addiction or obesity if they do not agree to treatment.

Setting out the party’s welfare plans if it wins the election in May, the prime minister said there were many people receiving welfare who have treatable conditions who should be the focus of attempts to get into work.

In a speech in Hove, he highlighted around 90,000 people claiming sickness benefits for conditions such as drug addiction, alcohol addiction or obesity.

These were treatable conditions, but there was no requirement for people to undertake treatment as part of their benefits, he said.
‘It’s possible for people to carry on claiming benefits without making any efforts at recovery, and that is effectively condemning them to going round and round in a destructive circle, with no spur or incentive to break out of it.’

Cameron has asked Department of Health adviser and former president of the Royal College of Physicians Dame Carol Black to undertake a review of policy in this area.
‘We want to know how we can help these people break the cycle, beat their problems, get back into work and start living more fulfilling lives,’ Cameron added. 

‘We want to work out how the benefit system can be used to incentivise positive changes in their lives – not just keep them stuck in bad old habits.

‘And yes, that means looking at whether people should face the threat of a reduction in benefits if they refuse to engage with a recommended treatment plan.’

In his speech, Cameron also announced that anyone aged 21 and under who claims benefits will need to do daily community work, as well as searching for a job, from the very start of their claim for unemployment support.

This would form part of plans to effectively abolish long-term youth unemployment, which would also include replacing Jobseeker’s Allowance for 18-21 year olds with a Youth Allowance, limited to six months.

However, he said the party now planned to go further and ensure that any so-called Neets – people in this age group who have not been in employment or education or training for more than six months – had to undertake community work at the start of any benefit claim.

It was clear that they needed experience to get back in the jobs market, he stated.

‘They drift from school to worklessness to benefits and not enough is asked of them.

‘So a Conservative government would require them to do daily community work from the very start of their claim, as well as searching for work. That could mean making meals for older people, cleaning up litter and graffiti, or working for local charities.

‘Your first experience of the benefits system should be that yes, you can get help – but it isn’t something for nothing, and you need to put something back into your community too.’

Responding to Cameron’s speech, Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary Rachel Reeves said that the government should introduce Labour’s planned compulsory jobs guarantee for young people to get them off benefits and into paid work.

‘Under David Cameron young people can spend years claiming benefit without being offered and required to take up paid work,’ she said.

‘Labour's compulsory jobs guarantee would ensure young people are given the chance to learn, earn and contribute.’

 

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