Social services will increasingly have to step in to deal with cases where the welfare of dangerously overweight children is put at risk if the UK's obesity epidemic continues to grow, town hall leaders warn.
The Local Government Association (LGA) is calling for a national debate about the extent to which dangerous childhood obesity could be considered as a factor contributing to parental neglect.
Council social services have only become involved in isolated cases until now, where it has been judged that children's health is being put at risk by their parents. However, the LGA is warning that as obesity increasingly becomes a problem, it is likely that local authorities will have to step in more and more to deal with the problem, normally through offering help and advice to parents and keeping the welfare of children under review.
It has been estimated that in England, by 2012 one million children will be obese, by 2025 around a quarter (24%) of boys will be obese.
Cllr David Rogers, LGA spokesperson on public health, said: "Councils are increasingly having to consider taking action where parents are putting children's health in real danger. As the obesity epidemic grows these tricky cases will keep on cropping up.
"Councils would step in to deal with an undernourished and neglected child so should a case with a morbidly obese child be different? 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?
"It is vital that councils, primary care trusts and the NHS work with parents to ensure that children don't end up dangerously overweight in the first place.
"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 UK is fast becoming the obesity capital of the world and the effect of spiralling obesity amongst children is particularly worrying."
"At last it has been recognised that these parents are causing these children significant harm. I beleive that this is a definate case of parental neglect." - Julie, Suffolk
"No why should they? They are not the ones looking after them nor are they helping put food on the table so what is it to them if they are obese? Their families will deal with the eating and being obese." - Jenny, London