Figures obtained under the Freedom of Information laws reveal that up to 74 children have been taken into care due to concerns over their weight. Other figures also show that in the last three years, 183 children under the age of 12 weighed over 16 stone. The heaviest girl was found to be 22st 11lb, and the heaviest boy weighed over 23st.
There are 206 local authorities in England, Wales and Scotland who are responsible for child protection, and of those 206, 128 told the Daily Mirror that 26-46 morbidly obese children were taken into care. Some authorities provided approximate figures to avoid identification of the children, suggesting that in the last five years between 41 and 74 children were taken into care nationwide.
According to a spokeswoman for the Department for Education the issue at hand is not that of children being a few pounds overweight, it is more about protecting those who face significant and potentially life-threatening health problems.
Tam Fry, a spokesman for the National Obesity Forum has commented to say that allowing children to get so overweight at such a young age is “quite simply child neglect and abuse”.
Tam went on to say that while he understands the reluctance of social workers to get involved before medical professionals have assessed the children, once the care order is obtained there should be no delay on their part.
The question on many experts’ lips however is whether or not taking children into care is an appropriate solution.
Rhian Jones, an eating behavioural expert who works at the College of Contemporary Health explains that taking children into care could perpetuate the problem rather than solve it:
“Obese children commonly see food as a comfort and therefore removing their parental comfort will inevitably take them down the road to their next favoured comfort – food,” she said. “Removing the child from their parent must surely be the last resort.”