We are supporting Joy Dove’s new petition, Justice for Jodey Whiting, her daughter – please sign here.
A 42-year-old formerly married single mother of nine and grandmother in Stockton, North East England, Jodey Whiting took her own life in February 2017 after being cut off ESA. She had missed seeing a letter calling her in for an ESA face-to-face interview in January 2017, and knew nothing of the appointment, as she was in hospital being treated for pneumonia. She also had a brain cyst.
She was cut off despite this and having a known history of mental distress and being suicidal. The Citizen’s Advice Bureau had written to the DWP on Jodey’s behalf, but it took a long time for the DWP to take notice of the letter, long after she killed herself. Two separate DWP decision-makers had already decided wrongly that her claim should be closed.
Her mum Joy took her case to the Independent Case Examiner (ICE), who investigates complaints about the DWP. The ICE found that the DWP failed to follow its own safeguarding rules for claimants with mental distress, including that they should have contacted Ms Whiting after she missed the appointment. They ruled that the DWP should pay £10,000 for “multiple failings”.
Joy said recently: “I want to take them to court now, I want them to be prosecuted for corporate manslaughter. It has taken two years to get the DWP to admit what they did. They killed my daughter and I don’t want this to happen to anyone else, so things need to change.”
In Parliament on 13 March, during Prime Minister’s Questions, Theresa May had to reply to Ms Whiting’s MP, Dr Paul Williams, that it was right that the DWP should apologise – but it’s her government’s policies that are killing people!
The petition calls for:
- An independent inquiry to investigate DWP failings in relation to these deaths, including whether there has been misconduct by civil servants or Ministers.
- Any evidence of misconduct contributing to serious harm or deaths to be turned over to the police.
- Recognition that DWP is institutionally disablist and not fit for purpose.
- DWP to urgently change its policies and administration of social security benefits to make the safety of all claimants a priority.
The petition, promoted by Disability News Service, is backed by other bereaved relatives, including Gill Thompson, whom WinVisible supported, and a number of disability campaigning groups.
The severity of women’s mental distress is commonly disbelieved. WinVisible has been telling women of our rights — that you can win exemption from the face-to-face interview and have a paper-based assessment of your ESA claim by sending in medical evidence, using the self-help information on our blog. It also helps if your local MP writes in your support. We want to get this information out to everyone, everywhere.
WinVisible has highlighted that disabled single mothers are often deemed fit for work because they care for their own children, including if children are with them at the assessment. Disabled mums deserve and need support – benefit security and support services – but get punished instead. Disabled single mothers are hardest hit by the benefit cap and Universal Credit, with disabled single mothers of disabled children set to lose £11,000 a year from cumulative benefit cuts, according to the Equality and Human Rights Commission.