The Independent Case Examiner (ICE) has ordered the DWP to pay £10,000 in compensation to the family of a claimant who committed suicide after her ESA was wrongly stopped. The claimant’s mother, however, has called for DWP officials to be prosecuted.
Jodie Whiting, 42, committed suicide just 15 days after her ESA was stopped because she failed to attend a work capability assessment.
But Whiting, a mother of nine, was known by the DWP to be vulnerable yet they failed on multiple occasions to follow their own procedures to keep her safe.
Whiting had a number of physical and mental health issues, including pneumonia and a cyst on the brain, for which she was receiving hospital treatment, and took 23 tablets a day. Her medication included painkillers which affected her concentration.
She had asked the DWP for a home visit for her assessment because she had suicidal thoughts and rarely left her home. She also included the request in her ESA50 sent to Maximus.
But neither agency acted on her request and, when Whiting failed to attend her assessment, the DWP did not follow its own procedures and try to telephone her before stopping her benefits.
Nor did the DWP consider carrying out a home visit as their procedures require.
In response to a letter, Whiting told the DWP that she had not attended the assessment because she had not received the appointment letter and also told them about her pneumonia and hospital treatment. She asked the DWP to contact her GP for confirmation.
But the DWP did not contact her GP. Instead, they informed Whiting that because she had failed to provide proof of her pneumonia they were stopping her ESA. The decision maker failed to take into account the claimant’s mental health, even though DWP procedure requires this.
An adviser from Citizens Advice then wrote to the DWP to explain what had happened and ask for another assessment. The DWP claim that they did not receive this letter.
Six days after the letter was sent, Jodie Whiting took her own life.
The DWP, however, continued to write and telephone Whitaker for months after being informed of her death, causing enormous distress to her family. ICE found that the DWP has no system in place to ensure that they ceased contacting a claimant once they are informed of their death.
ICE found that the DWP had failed on multiple occasions to follow its own safeguarding procedures and ordered the department to pay £10,000 in compensation.