Is This Family Too Fat to Work?

A family living on welfare insists they're just too fat to work.

ByABC News
March 19, 2009, 1:00 PM

LONDON, March 20, 2009 — -- The Chawners seem like any other family of four. They enjoy watching soap operas in the evening, and daughter Emma,19, and her father like cooking the odd meal now and then.

But typical they are not: With a combined weight of 1,160 pounds, they are all considered extremely obese, with myriad related health problems.

The family, from Lancashire, England, has also been the focus of heavy criticism, as they live exclusively on $26,000 of yearly, tax-free medical benefits.

In an interview with Closer Magazine this week, Philip Chawner, 53, a former truck driver, claimed that his diabetes was causing him to fall asleep behind the wheel. His wife, Audrey, 57, volunteered at a disabled children's clinic but her epilepsy prevents her from leaving home.

They live in a two-bedroom, government-sponsored apartment that costs $50 a week. A typical diet included bacon sandwiches, known as "bacon butties," and "microwave pies." A typical day involved turning on the television in the morning. Husband and wife weigh 336 pounds each. Emma weighs 238 pounds.

Soon after the interview was published, subsequent news accounts referred to them as the "free-loading family" and "the real telly-tubbies," among other things.

But daughter Samantha Chawner, 21, did not think the articles were fair at all. She said that the description of their lifestyle was false. For example, they do not solely buy junk food but try to buy fruits and vegetables as well, as much as their budget allows, she said.

"It was full of lies. We thought they [Closer] were doing an article about families on benefits that were looking for jobs. We didn't know they would write such horrible things," she said.

What she does reiterate, however, is that their weight prevents them from getting the jobs. At 252 pounds, the aspiring hairdresser said she has applied for more than 500 positions and most of them fell through. "I got an interview with a couple of them," she said. "But they all turn me down. They can be quite mean about it."

She also receives unemployment checks from the government every two weeks, worth around $100 each.