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High Court rejects application for second Jodey Whiting inquest

22 September 2021

The High Court has rejected the application by the mother of Jodey Whiting for a second inquest into her death.

Jodey Whiting, 42 years old and a mother-of-nine and grandmother from Stockton-on-Tees, took her own life in February 2017, 15 days after she had her ESA mistakenly stopped for missing a face-to-face work capability assessment.

In December 2016, Jodey was sent a letter asking her to attend a face-to-face work capability assessment (WCA) the following month.

But she failed to open the letter and so missed the WCA.

Jodey  had severe mental health problems. She had also 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.

According to the DWP’s safeguarding procedures, the department should have contacted “vulnerable” claimants like her by telephone if they missed their assessment, but a report by the Independent Case Examiner (ICE) later found no evidence that this had been done.

The DWP should also have considered a safeguarding visit to her home, but again there was no evidence that this was done.

The following month, on 6 February, the DWP wrote to Jodey to tell her it was terminating her benefits, and she also received letters from the council telling her that her council tax benefit and housing benefit would be stopped.

She took her own life 15 days later.

The decision to remove her ESA was overturned the following month, after her mother had asked DWP to reconsider its decision.

Following the court’s decision, Jodey’s mother, Joy Dove, is considering whether to apply for permission to appeal the decision.

She said:

“I am bitterly disappointed by the High Court’s ruling. More than four years on from losing Jodey the DWP has still not had to answer for the role that I believe they played in her death. Despite dismissing my application the judgment makes it clear that the behaviour of the DWP has been shocking and I welcome the High Court ruling that Jodey’s ESA should never been withdrawn. This is not the end. I am not giving up and I will continue to fight for justice for Jodey. Thank you to all those that have supported me in this fight so far.”
 
Merry Varney, partner at law firm Leigh Day said:
 
“I echo Joy’s disappointment with the court’s ruling, which we will be looking at carefully with Joy and advising her about an appeal.”

The High Court had been asked to order a second inquest into Jodey’s death so that the role of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in Jodey’s death could be investigated. The first inquest into her death lasted only 37 minutes and the coroner refused to consider the role of the DWP. 

Alex Kennedy, Head of Campaigns and Public Affairs, at Rethink Mental Illness said of the High Court’s rejection of a second inquest:

“This ruling is terrible news for Jodey’s family, who have fought so hard to get justice on her behalf. Jodey, who lived with serious long-term physical and mental health issues, was desperately let down by the DWP but this heart-breaking case is far from unique.

Recent figures revealed that in the past three years there have been 124 internal investigations by DWP into cases of death or serious harm. The lack of transparency and accountability is inexcusable.

“At a time when millions of people rely on support from benefits, this should be a national scandal. Our Stop Benefit Deaths campaign is calling for a public inquiry to give families the answers they deserve, and to prevent others from being failed by a system which is supposed to support them.”

For more information, see High Court rejects application for second Jodey Whiting inquest from leighday.co.uk.

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