What Does Bracknell Think: Should overweight benefit claimants lose out if they refuse to exercise?By Jennie Slevin
January 16, 2013
This week we asked our panel what they think of the news that overweight benefit claimants may lose out if they refuse to exercise.
Doctors who prescribe gym membership for the obese will be able to keep track of how hard they’re working by an ‘Oyster card’-style system, a scheme that has aready been adopted by several local authorities.
Winkfield artist and author Jonathan Greenyer: “Being overweight is not the key problem that keeps unemployed people from getting a job, it may be a minor side effect or completely irrelevant. This is very patronising behaviour and a pressure that the unemployed could well do without.”
Hazel Kent, of Bracknell Market cafe: “This scheme has been around for years. My GP used to do me referrals to the gym over 12 years ago, so why this is billed as something new is beyond me.
“The majority of people with a weight problem are not in denial and would love to be able to afford to go to the gym after work etc, but the cost prohibits them from going. The GP scheme only covered off peak times, which was useless for working people. The only way to get people to exercise is to bring the price of the activities down. To go to the gym three times a week would cost more than £21 for a member.”
Caroline Allain, from Forest Park: “I can’t really see too much of an issue with the theory behind this, except that there are other ways to exercise than just at the gym, and is there going to be a minimum amount of exercise that is expected?
“Rather than just being told to go, they need to be given specific exercises, instructions, and have someone on hand that they can feel comfortable about asking for help at any time they need it.”
Peter Smith of The Better Business Alliance: “I like the idea of enabling doctors to prescribe gym membership to help people to lose weight.
“Making their benefits dependent on doing so, however may be taking things a bit too far. Surely everyone should be encouraged to exercise and perhaps it should become an automatic right, similar to a bus pass as soon as people hit 60?”
Ed Glasson, of Defend Our Community Services (DOCS) group, said: “Yet another bum idea from yet another right-wing ‘think tank’. And a very handy way of diverting attention from what we should be asking. Namely, why is it we can no longer provide the kind of first class universal health care, regardless of girth, that we’ve all enjoyed through good times and bad for the past 62 years?
“Sure, we should all aim to be fit. But, actually, there’s no very clear correlation between obesity and class or income. In fact, over recent times, the lowest obesity rates have been recorded among the poorest 20 per cent of working age men and the wealthiest 20 per cent of working age women. Below average earners are three times more likely to develop a long-term illness or disability in middle age than high earners.”