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Family of Jodey Whiting seeks fresh inquest into her death to examine role played by DWP

08 January 2020

The family of Jodey Whiting who died after her benefits were stopped has written to the Attorney General to request his consent to apply to the High Court for a fresh inquest into her death to examine the role played by the DWP.

Jodey Whiting died on 21 February 2017. She was a vulnerable woman with multiple physical and mental health illnesses which left her house-bound, requiring 23 tablets per day and meant she was entirely reliant on welfare benefits.

She died by suicide after the DWP suspended her benefits because she missed a work capability assessment.

 To make matters worse, the DWP continued to phone Jodey’s number after her suicide because the DWP has no system to alert staff that a claimant has died.

 In May 2017 an inquest was held into Jodey’s death. The inquest lasted for less than one hour and the coroner declined to consider the potential role of the DWP in her death. Jodey’s family were unrepresented and were unaware that they may have been entitled to publicly funded legal representation.

However, a subsequent inquiry by the Independent Case Examiner found that the DWP failed five times to follow its own safeguarding rules in Jodey’s case. who had had a long history of mental distress.

The DWP, which accepted the findings, was ordered to apologise and pay £10,000 compensation.

Jodey’s mother is asking for a new inquest on the basis that the original inquest was insufficient, and that new evidence has since emerged, hence the interests of justice require a fresh inquest to be held.

The new evidence includes an investigation into the handling of Jodey’s benefits by the DWP and a report from an independent consultant psychiatrist.

The family hopes that this application will lead to a new inquest in which the failings of the DWP identified by an independent investigation and the effects of these failings on Jodey’s mental state will be properly considered, including whether or not the failings more than minimally contributed to Jodey’s death.
 
Jodey’s family has now obtained an opinion from an independent consultant psychiatrist who concluded that the DWP’s failings would probably have had a substantial effect on Jodey’s mental state at the time she took her own life.
 
In her letter to the Attorney General, Jodey’s mother Joy argues that the manner in which Jodey was treated by the DWP, and in particular the withdrawal of her ESA, caused or materially contributed to her death and that had this not occurred, Jodey’s death would not have occurred when it did.

Leigh Day, the solicitors supporting Jody’s family, said that the consent being sought from the Attorney General was the first step to achieving a fresh inquest and ensuring there is a full public investigation into the role played by the DWP in Jodey’s death.

In July 2019, DR UK supported calls for an independent inquiry into links between DWP failings and the deaths of disabled benefit claimants.

Kamran Mallick, DR UK’s Chief Executive, said the DWP’s failure to follow its own procedures in the case of Jodey Whiting “highlights the need for a root and branch change to our system of social protection for

disabled people in this country”. He also said this system should “meet the needs of disabled people and provide safety and support in the way it is administrated”.

Kamran added that an independent inquiry into deaths linked to the 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”.

For more information see Family of Jodey Whiting seek fresh inquest into her death to examine role played by DWP at www.leighday.co.uk