The benefits of drug addicts, alcoholics and the obese could be slashed if they refuse treatment.
David Cameron has personally ordered a sweeping review of the system to find ways to cut handouts to people because of health conditions linked to their own behaviour.
Around £500million a year of taxpayers’ cash goes to about 100,000 claimants who could conquer their conditions with help.
Mr Cameron has instructed Professor Dame Carol Black, an expert in welfare policy, to examine the benefit system and find new incentives to make jobless junkies, alcoholics and binge eaters get jobs.
Her review is intended to lead to plans for a crackdown on claims which will come into force after the election in May if Mr Cameron returns to downing Street.
The Tory leader said yesterday that he had asked Professor Black “to consider whether people should face the threat of a reduction in benefits if they refuse to engage with a recommended treatment plan”.
He added: “too many people are stuck on sickness benefit because of issues that could be addressed but instead are not.
“Some have drug or alcohol problems but refuse treatment. In other cases people have problems with their weight that could be addressed but instead a life on benefits instead of work becomes the choice. It is not fair to ask hardworking taxpayers to fund the benefits of people who refuse to accept the support and treatment that could help them back to a life of work.”
Professor Black, chairman of the Nuffield Trust, which researches health and social policy, said: “I am deeply interested in trying to overcome the challenges these types of benefits pose. These people, in addition to their log-term conditions and lifestyle issues, suffer the great disadvantage of not being engaged in the world of work, such an important feature of society.”
Recent figures revealed that 75,000 people are signed of work because of conditions related to drink or drug abuse. In one case a man who lay in bed drinking 12 cans of lager a day won the right to sickness benefit.
Nearly £30million a year is spent on benefits for more than 7,000 people who are obese. Sickness claimants are paid up to £108 a week – more than jobseekers get.
John O’Connel, of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, said: “The benefit system must be a safety net, not a comfort blanket and that means ensuring their are incentives for individuals to take responsibility for themselves and get back into work.”