The mother of a woman who took her own life after the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) stopped her social security is once again having to fight the justice system. And her battle with the courts is also a battle with the DWP.
Another court battle looming?
Jodey Whiting was a 42-year old mother. As The Canary previously reported, she took her own life after the DWP stopped her social security. Her mother has been fighting for justice ever since.
The original inquest did not look at the DWP’s role in Whiting’s death. Then in September, the High Court refused to grant a new inquest. So, her mother is now appealing that decision.
But it’s the background to the case which is crucial.
Because the DWP stopped Whiting’s Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), she also lost her Housing Benefit and Council Tax Reduction. Whiting lived with various physical health conditions and mental health issues. These included a brain cyst, curvature of the spine, and bipolar disorder. Whiting was taking 23 tablets a day for her illnesses and conditions.
She took her own life on 21 February 2017, three days after the DWP made her last ESA payment. This was because she missed a Work Capability Assessment (WCA). According to solicitors Leigh Day:
- The DWP failed to arrange a home visit for Whiting for her WCA. It arranged an appointment at an assessment centre, despite Whiting’s request for a home assessment because she “rarely left the house due to her health”.
- It also didn’t take into consideration that Whiting had made the department aware she lived with “suicidal thoughts a lot of the time and could not cope with work or looking for work”.
- And it did not complete a Mandatory Reconsideration of its decision to stop Whiting’s ESA until after her death.
In May 2017, a coroner failed to consider any role the DWP and its decisions had in Whiting’s death. So her family and Leigh Day took the matter to the High Court. They were asking for a new inquest into her death. But on Friday 17 September, the court denied her family this justice.
As The Canary previously reported, lord justice Warby, justice Farbey, and judge Thomas Teague QC – the chief coroner for England and Wales – dismissed Whiting’s family’s claim. They found the original inquest to be sufficient. Farbey said:
It is not necessary and would not be in the public interest for a coroner to engage in an extensive inquiry into the department’s decision-making…
The inquest conducted by the coroner was short but fair. It covered the legal ground and dealt with the evidence before the coroner including the views of Ms Whiting’s family.
It is likely to remain a matter of speculation as to whether or not the department’s decision caused Ms Whiting’s suicide.
In my judgment, it would be extremely difficult for a new inquest to conclude that the department caused Ms Whiting’s death.
So now, Whiting’s mother Joy Dove is appealing this decision.
Human rights and public interest
Leigh Day said in a press release that the reasons for Dove’s appeal were that, contrary to the High Court’s decision, there was a public interest argument for a new inquest.
The firm noted that Dove:
also argues in her case that the duties under Article 2 of the Human Rights Act (the right to life) should be engaged due to the multiple serious and systematic failings of the DWP. She argues that the court was mistaken in concluding that to grant a fresh inquest it had to deem the first one insufficient.
“For Jodey’s sake”
Dove said in a press release that:
I can’t accept that the first inquest into Jodey’s death was a thorough investigation into the reasons for her death. I believe that there should be a proper and full look at the way that she was let down by the DWP and that the public need to know what went wrong there. For Jodey’s sake, I have to appeal the refusal to grant us a second inquest.
And as she previously said:
More than four years on from losing Jodey the DWP has still not had to answer for the role that I believe they played in her death.
DWP: systemic problems
As The Canary previously reported, at least 35,000 people have died on the DWP’s watch since 2011. They died either waiting for the DWP to sort their claims or after it said they were well enough to work or start moving towards work.
In 2018 alone there could have been 750 (if not more) people who took their own lives while claiming from the DWP. But across five years, the department only reviewed 69 cases of people taking their own lives.
In Whiting’s legal case the DWP argued its problems were not systemic. All the evidence shows otherwise. And Whiting’s case, and her mother’s desperate legal battle, may be crucial in officially exposing this.
Featured image via Wikimedia and Leigh Day