The mother of a disabled woman who took her own life after her benefits were wrongly stopped has won a legal victory that could lead to a full examination of whether the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) caused her daughter’s death.
Jodey Whiting (pictured) took her own life in February 2017, 15 days after she had her out-of-work disability benefits mistakenly stopped for missing a work capability assessment (WCA).
She had had a request for a home assessment turned down, and later failed to open a letter asking her to attend the face-to-face assessment, and so missed the WCA.
She had been ill with pneumonia and receiving hospital treatment for a cyst on the brain and had been taking painkillers which affected her ability to cope with correspondence.
The Independent Case Examiner concluded last year that DWP was guilty of “multiple” and “significant” failings in handling Jodey’s case, and that it failed five times to follow its own safeguarding rules in the weeks leading to her suicide.
Her mother, Joy Dove, believes DWP’s failings caused Jodey’s death and has spent more than three years fighting for justice for her daughter, and for a safer social security system that will prevent other deaths.
The original inquest in May 2017 lasted less than an hour and failed to investigate DWP’s potential role in her daughter’s death.
Now the solicitor general, Michael Ellis, has granted Joy Dove permission to ask the high court to order a second inquest into Jodey’s death.
The decision came in the same week that DWP faced allegations that its failings had led to the death of another disabled benefit claimant.
The family of Philippa Day told Disability News Service (DNS) this week that they believe her death was clearly linked to DWP failings, and the department’s repeated refusal to protect benefit claimants from harm (see separate story).
Philippa is also believed to have taken her own life, and like Jodey Whiting was refused permission for a home assessment.
Joy Dove told DNS last night that she had cried when her solicitor, Merry Varney, told her they had won this stage in their legal battle.
She said: “It has been a nightmare and it should never have happened. They are being found out now.
“They put her through torture. She shouldn’t have been put through that.
“I just want to carry on the fight for Jodey and for others.”
Asked why the legal battle was so important to her, she said: “Because my daughter’s death won’t be in vain and it’s going to help others and they are going to change the system.
“They promised to change it but there’s been a lot of cases since.”
She pointed to the deaths of Philippa Day, who died in August 2019, and Errol Graham, who died in June 2018 and whose family are engaged in their own legal battle with DWP over its safeguarding policies.
Dove said the solicitor general’s decision meant the family were one step closer to justice for her daughter and to holding those responsible accountable for her death.
She said: “It has been a nightmare but I want to thank the hard work of Merry Varney and all the team at Leigh Day and everyone who has been helping me with the Justice for Jodey campaign. This is a big step forward.”
Varney said the solicitor general’s decision was “very welcome”.
She said: “It is the first completed step in the long journey by Jodey’s family to seek a full and fearless investigation into whether the DWP, and its flawed decision-making regarding Jodey’s benefits claim, caused or contributed to her death.
“We must now apply to the high court and seek to persuade the court a fresh inquest is necessary.”
A spokesperson for the attorney general’s office said: “I can confirm the solicitor general has granted his permission for the family of Jodey Whiting to apply to the high court for a fresh inquest into her death.”
DWP had not commented by noon today (Thursday).