(Image: Ian McIntyre)
The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) is facing a legal investigation after a mother of nine took her own life “because the DWP stopped her benefits”.
Jodey Whiting, who suffered severely disabling medical conditions, ended her own life in February 2017, shortly after the DWP stopped her disability support payments. The payments stopped because was claimed by the DWP that Jodey failed to attend a work capability assessment (WCA).
However, her family claims that she never received the appointment letter and is blaming the Government for her suicide.
The 42-year-old grandmother was diagnosed with a brain cyst and curvature of the spine and could barely walk to her own front door, but an inquest has heard that despite her disabilities, Jodey Whiting faced a distressing battle with the DWP for lifeline benefits.
Supported by volunteers from the Citizens Advice Bureau, Jodey appealed the DWP decision to end her claim, but was told that due to a backlog in appeals it could take up to sixteen months before her case was reviewed.
Her mother, Joy Dove, who assisted her daughter in claiming the lifeline support she was entitled to, has taken up the battle with the DWP following her daughter’s death. She told Gazette Live: “To have to wait another 16 months is devastating, but we can’t do anything about the fact there are so many cases that need investigating.
“I’m glad they’ve taken the case on. We will always fight for justice for my daughter.
“She has kids and grandchildren left without a mum, and I’ve been left without a daughter. I want to make sure this doesn’t happen to anyone else.”
The case will now be investigated by an Independent Case Examiner (ICE), who will look at the circumstances surrounding Jodey’s death and whether the DWP’s decision to stop her benefits affected her metal state at the time of Jodey’s suicide.
The ICE will looks at five key parts of the case against the DWP:
- The Citizen’s Advice Bureau sent a letter to the DWP regarding Jodey’s health issues on February 15, six days before her death, but it failed to act on it until March 23.
- Despite being made aware of her death on February 23 using the ‘tell us once’ system, the DWP issued a claim to Jodey about her Employment Support Allowance claim on February 25.
- The DWP failed to take appropriate action to upgrade their computer systems until March 1.
- The DWP continued to call Jodey’s phone and leave her voicemail messages until May, despite knowing of her death.
- The department failed to respond to Mrs Dove’s letter of April 13, 2017 until June 14, 2017.
Jodey had been sent a letter that instructed her to attend a work capability assessment on January 16 last year, but missed the mandatory meeting while being in hospital because of a brain cyst. She knew nothing about the appointment.
On February 6, the DWP ruled that Jodey had not ‘provided sufficient evidence’ for missing the appointment and stopped her disability benefits. Jodey raised concerns about the decision on February 10 and made a formal appeal on the 13th. She killed herself on February 21, before a different DWP decision maker had reviewed her case and decided on February 25 – just four days after her death – that she should have continued to receive disability benefits.
A message about the ruling was sent to Jodey’s mobile phone inbox after her death, despite the DWP being informed of her death.
Joy has also started a ‘Justice for Jodey’ petition, with the aim of persuading the DWP to look again at how it handles social security claims. You can sign it here: you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/justice-for-jodey
She said that messages of support there have helped her as she struggles to overcome her grief: “We’ll never stop battling. The messages I get on the petition, and from people who have been in similar situations, are incredible.”
The DWP did not respond for requests for comment.
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