Page last updated at 03:49 GMT, Saturday, 16 August 2008 04:49 UK

Council warning on child obesity

Two overweight males
Councils say obese people are putting a strain on their services

Social services may have to take action over children who are overweight if the UK's obesity problems continue to grow, council chiefs have warned.

The Local Government Association (LGA) questioned whether parental neglect should include child obesity, in the same way as under-nourishment.

Examples of some councils coping with a fatter population include larger school furniture and wider crematoria.

It has been estimated that 1m children will be obese in England by 2012.

Councils outlined the ways obesity is affecting public services:

• The cost to social services of caring for house-bound people suffering from illnesses that are the consequence of obesity, including arthritis, heart disease and diabetes

• Furniture in school classes, gyms and canteens having to be made wider for larger children

• Crematoria furnaces having to be widened

• Fire services being called in to winch obese members of the public out of dangerous buildings in emergencies such as fires

The LGA, which represents more than 400 councils in England and Wales, is warning that as obesity increasingly becomes a problem for children, it is likely that local authorities will have to step in more and more to deal with the problem.

This is usually through offering help and advice to parents and keeping the welfare of children under review.

'Devastating impact'

David Rogers, LGA spokesperson on public health, said councils were increasingly having to consider taking action where it was considered that parents were putting children's health in danger.

He said: "Councils would step in to deal with an under-nourished and neglected child so should a case with a morbidly obese child be different?

Council equipment and infrastructure is having to be modified to deal with a population that is getting larger and larger
David Rogers
Local Government Association

"If parents consistently place their children at risk through bad diet and lack of exercise is it right that a council should step in to keep the child's health under review?"

Mr Rogers added that it was "vital" for councils, primary care trusts and the National Health Service to work with parents to prevent children from becoming overweight.

He said: "There needs to be a national debate about the extent to which it is acceptable for local authorities to take action in cases where the welfare of children is in real jeopardy.

"The nation's expanding waistline threatens to have a devastating impact on our public services. It's a massive issue for public health but it also risks placing an unprecedented amount of pressure on council services.

"Obesity is increasingly costing the council taxpayer dear. It falls to social services to care for the house-bound obese adults, to invest money in encouraging people to be active and to replace school furniture that is just too small for larger pupils.

"Council equipment and infrastructure is having to be modified to deal with a population that is getting larger and larger."

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