The mother of a disabled woman who took her own life after her benefits were wrongly stopped is to seek permission to appeal against a court’s ruling that there should not be a second inquest into her daughter’s death.
Joy Dove said she refused to accept that the first inquest in May 2017 – which lasted just 37 minutes – was a “thorough investigation” into the role played by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in her daughter’s death.
Last month, the high court refused to quash the result of the first inquest into the death of Jodey Whiting and to order a second one, arguing that new evidence that had come to light since May 2017 did not require a second inquest.
Dove has now applied for permission to appeal that decision.
Among the grounds for her appeal, she believes the high court was wrong to conclude that the first inquest had carried out a deep enough examination of what happened, and to conclude that other forms of scrutiny of the death already existed.
Dove also argues that there are grounds under article two of the Human Rights Act – the right to life – for a second inquest, because of DWP’s multiple serious and systematic failings.
In rejecting the case last month, Mrs Justice Farbey argued that DWP’s failings had been “shocking” and that the decision to remove her employment and support allowance (ESA) “should not have happened”.
But she said that DWP’s errors “amounted to individual failings attributable to mistakes or bad judgment” and were not “systemic or structural in nature”.
Despite that conclusion, 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.
Secret reviews obtained by Disability News Service have shown that DWP civil servants repeatedly warned – between 2012 and 2014 – that policies on the work capability assessment were putting the lives of “vulnerable” claimants at risk.
In one such report, a civil servant warned: “The risk associated with disregarding the possibility that some of these claimants need more support or a different form of engagement is that we fail to recognise more cases like [the name was redacted] with consequent potential impact on the claimant.”
In 2017, DWP admitted failing to keep track of whether it had implemented 10 recommendations on improving the safety of “vulnerable” disabled people that had been made in these secret reviews.
And in January this year, the coroner who heard the inquest into Philippa Day’s death, concluded that flaws in the personal independence payment system were “the predominant factor and the only acute factor” that led to the young disabled mother taking her own life.
He had reached that decision after a nine-day inquest that uncovered multiple failings by both DWP and its private sector contractor Capita in the 11 months that led up to her death in October 2019.
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.
Joy Dove said: “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.”
Her solicitor, Merry Varney, a partner with law firm Leigh Day, said: “Our client is arguing that the divisional court was wrong not to find it necessary and desirable in the public interest for a second inquest to take place to investigate the possibility that DWP failings, described by the court as ‘shocking’, caused or contributed to Jodey’s death.”
Picture: Joy Dove outside DWP’s offices in Westminster
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