The mother of a disabled woman who took her own life when her benefits were wrongly stopped has described how she cried “tears of joy” after being told she had won another chance to seek a second inquest into her daughter’s death.
Joy Dove believes the first inquest in May 2017 – which lasted just 37 minutes – was not a “thorough investigation” into the role played by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in the death of her daughter, Jodey Whiting.
The high court refused in September 2021 to quash the result of the first inquest and to order a second one, and then refused her permission to appeal that decision.
But now the Court of Appeal has granted Dove permission to appeal that high court ruling.
If she is successful at the Court of Appeal, a second inquest could investigate DWP’s failings in depth.
Dove, who is disabled herself, waited nearly a year to hear if she would be granted permission to appeal.
She said the ruling showed DWP that the fight for justice for her daughter was not yet over.
She said: “I can see Jodey with a big smile on her face.
“I didn’t mind waiting because no news is good news. I kept saying that to myself.”
It came as her book, which describes her years of campaigning to expose the role DWP played in Jodey’s death, is due to be published on Thursday (13 October).
She said she cried “tears of joy” when she received the news that their legal bid had been successful from her solicitor, Leigh Day’s Merry Varney.
She told Disability News Service that her emotions had been “up and down” over the last year but that she had been distracted by the imminent publication of her book, A Mother’s Job.
She said she would keep fighting until she had won “justice for Jodey”.
She said: “The DWP thought it was finished with, but this has given me a new lease of life.”
Dove has been granted permission to appeal on both the grounds that her legal team had put forward on her behalf.
They had argued that the high court was wrong to find that it was not necessary to hold a new inquest in the interests of justice, based on the new evidence that was now available; and that it was wrong to dismiss the need for a new inquest to examine possible breaches of article two of the Human Rights Act, which covers the right to life.
Dove thanked Varney and the rest of her legal team, and the judge who granted her permission to appeal and “has taken on all the evidence”, as well as the many supporters of her campaign.
Varney said: “The Court of Appeal’s decision to grant Joy permission to appeal is a very welcome and significant step forward.
“Joy’s fight for a full and fearless inquest to investigate Jodey’s death continues.
“We look forward to presenting Joy’s case for a new inquest to the Court of Appeal in the coming months.”
The high court ruled last year that DWP’s errors in dealing with Jodey Whiting’s claim “amounted to individual failings attributable to mistakes or bad judgment” and were not “systemic or structural in nature”.
The court reached the ruling even though scores of deaths have been linked to DWP’s systemic failings, including its refusal to act on reports by coroners following inquests in 2010 and 2014 and a report in March 2014 by the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland.
In July, a draft version of the Deaths by Welfare timeline* brought together more than 30 years of evidence linking DWP’s systemic failings with the deaths of claimants, including Jodey Whiting’s.
The timeline shows DWP was alerted more than 40 times to life-threatening systemic flaws in DWP’s disability benefits systems over the past 30 years.
Jodey Whiting took her own life in February 2017, 15 days after she had her employment and support allowance (ESA) wrongly stopped for missing a work capability assessment.
She had been a long-time claimant of incapacity benefit, and then ESA, and DWP and its assessors had previously noted the severity of her mental distress, and the risk that would be posed if she was found fit for work.
They were also aware of her long history of suicidal ideation.
At the time of the assessment, she was unable to leave her house because she had pneumonia, had been in hospital, and had found out that she had a cyst on her brain.
A DWP spokesperson said: “This is an incredibly tragic case and our condolences remain with Ms Whiting’s family.
“We cannot comment on active legal proceedings.”
*DNS editor John Pring is co-creator of the timeline
Picture: Joy Dove beside the grave of her daughter, Jodey Whiting