A second national disability charity has joined Mind in backing a petition that calls for an independent inquiry into links between Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) failings and the deaths of disabled benefit claimants.
Disability Rights UK (DR UK) and Mind are the only two major charities to have supported the Justice for Jodey Whiting petition*, in contrast with others such as RNIB, Leonard Cheshire, Sense and Scope, which have refused to back its demands.
The petition calls for an inquiry and for any evidence of criminal misconduct by civil servants and ministers to be passed to police.
It also calls on MPs to brand DWP institutionally disablist and not fit for purpose, and for the department to take urgent steps to make the safety of benefit claimants a priority.
Earlier this month, 12 disability charities – none of which are led and controlled by disabled people – rejected a request from Disability News Service (DNS) to back the petition.
Only Mind agreed to back the petition and its four demands.
But now DR UK, which is run and controlled by disabled people and works with many of the charities as a member of the Disability Benefits Consortium, has said it supports the petition and all its demands.
Jodey Whiting died in February 2017, 15 days after she had her out-of-work disability benefits mistakenly stopped for missing a work capability assessment.
The Independent Case Examiner concluded earlier this year that DWP was guilty of “multiple” and “significant” failings in handling the case.
Kamran Mallick (pictured), DR UK’s chief executive, said DWP’s failure to follow its own procedures in the case of Jodey Whiting “highlights the need of a root and branch change to our system of social protection for disabled people in this country”.
He said this system should “meet the needs of disabled people and provide safety and support in the way it is administrated”.
Mallick said an independent inquiry into deaths linked to DWP’s actions “would create the opportunity to gather robust evidence on the way the benefits system is administrated and how it impacts on people who need to use it”.
He said: “It could also be used to make recommendations for structural changes to the way the system operates now.”
And he said that any evidence of misconduct that led to serious harm or death “should be examined by the police to see if a criminal prosecution is appropriate”.
He added: “There’s a growing evidence base that the DWP is struggling to provide the services required.
“It’s been the subject of a series of very critical reports from select committees, for example, as well as other independent organisations such as Demos.
“There have been well documented problems with employment and support allowance, the changeover from disability living allowance to personal independence payments and of course universal credit.
“Transferring current responsibilities to different organisations, whether statutory or otherwise, could help solve the problem.
“But we must make sure there is a fundamental change in approach – without that, disabled people’s experiences are unlikely to improve much.”
*Sign the Jodey Whiting petition here. If you sign the petition, please note you will need to confirm your signature by clicking on an email you will be sent automatically by the House of Commons petitions committee
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