The DWP could face a second inquest into a benefit claimant’s death

Royal Courts of Justice and the DWP logo as another DWP court case looms
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Content warning – this article contains discussion around suicide and suicidal ideation 

The mother of a benefit claimant who took her own life after the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) stopped her money may yet get more answers over her daughter’s death. This is because the Court of Appeal has given her the chance to challenge another court’s decision not to hold a second inquest into her passing. This further DWP court case means that more may come to light about the department’s role in what happened. People will be holding a vigil outside the court on the day the appeal starts.

Jodey Whiting: failed by the DWP

The Canary has documented what happened to Jodey Whiting and her mother Joy Dove’s fight for justice. Jodey was 42 when she took her own life on 21 February 2017. This happened after the DWP stopped her benefits – giving her her last payment three days before she died. It’s actions were despite Jodey being chronically ill and disabled – at times physically having restricted mobility and also living with severe psychological distress, to the point of having suicidal ideations.

Previously, an independent government body ruled the DWP had failed Jodey repeatedly – especially in terms of safeguarding. However, all it did was force the DWP to pay compensation to Jodey’s family. No-one has ever examined the department’s role in her death properly – not even the coroner in Jodey’s first inquest.

So, her mother Joy has been fighting for the truth ever since. She’s represented by Leigh Day solicitors. Three years ago, the Canary reported that Leigh Day noted in Jodey’s case that the DWP made repeated failings. It:

  • Failed to arrange a home visit for Whiting for her Work Capability Assessment (WCA). Instead, it arranged an appointment at an assessment centre. This was despite Whiting’s request for an assessment at home because she “rarely left the house due to her health”.
  • Did not take into consideration Whiting making it aware that she lived with “suicidal thoughts a lot of the time and could not cope with work or looking for work”.
  • Stopped Whiting’s Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) payments after she did not attend the WCA.
  • Did not complete a Mandatory Reconsideration of its decision to stop Whiting’s ESA until after her death.

At the time, Joy had written to the government asking for a new inquest into Jodey’s death – specifically to look at the DWP’s actions. Her case then ended up in the High Court.

Challenging the system

In September 2021, three High Court judges ruled against a second inquest into Jodey’s death. They claimed this would “not be in the pubic interest” – saying the DWP’s role in her death was ‘speculative’. So, Joy challenged the High Court and appealed its decision. It refused to hear it – so she went to the Court of Appeal. It, however, granted Joy an appeal – and the court will now hear it on Tuesday 31 January. Campaign group Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) will be taking action. It said in a statement:

DPAC will be in solidarity with Joy Dove, mother of Jodey Whiting, for a silent vigil outside the Royal Courts of Justice on the morning of the first day of the appeal against the Court’s ruling against a second inquest into Jodey’s death.

Read on...

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Join us from 9.15 – 10am on Tuesday 31st January outside the Royal Courts of Justice, Strand, London WC2A 2LL

Please wear dark clothes and bring a white flower. Please do not bring campaign banners at Joy’s request. We will have some photos of Jodey to hold.

As Disability News Service (DNS) reported, Joy said she imagined that Jodey “has a big smile on her face”, knowing that the DWP may be nearer to facing justice over her death. If the Court of Appeal grants a second inquest, it may also serve as the beginnings of justice for the countless other people who have died on the watch of a department which was supposedly there to support them. Moreover, it’s another DWP court case to add to a growing list of them – with each one serving as another exposé of its failings.

Featured image via StevovoB – pixabay and Wikimedia 

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