The High Court has refused to grant a second inquest into the death of Jodey Whiting because there was a lack of evidence that Jodey’s death was part of a pattern of failure by the DWP, rather than a series of one-off errors. However, the DWP have consistently covered-up at least 175 reports into claimants’ deaths that potentially provide just such evidence of similar failings.
Jodey died in February 2017. Her ESA had been stopped after she failed to attend a work capability assessment.
Jodey had been seriously ill with pneumonia, had been receiving treatment for a cyst on the brain and was taking strong painkillers. But she was refused a home assessment for her ESA and failed to open the appointment letter for a WCA at an assessment centre.
As a result, her benefits were stopped.
An inquest into Jodey’s death lasted just 37 minutes and failed to even look at the part the DWP played in the tragedy.
Her family have since been fighting for a new inquest to properly examine the part played by the DWP.
However, their latest attempt in the High Court has now failed.
In their judgement, the three judges ruled that:
“. . . it is likely to remain a matter of speculation as to whether or not the Department's decision caused Ms Whiting's suicide. In my judgment, it would be extremely difficult for a new inquest to conclude that the Department caused Ms Whiting's death.”
They went on to say that:
“For the claimant, it is said that the errors in this case are not isolated. But the ICE [Independent Complaints Examiner] did not identify any systemic flaws. And the evidence and argument relied on in support of the claim that there were such flaws is wanting in detail and precision. The evidence before us is incapable of showing that the errors made in relation to Ms Whiting stemmed from any systemic or structural failure that would represent a breach of the state's "systems duty" under Article 2 of the Convention. The only available conclusion is that a series of individual errors was made.”
Yet we know that the DWP have carried out more than 175 secret reviews into benefits deaths since the beginning of 2012, including 80 in just the last three years. For a long-time they refused to admit that these reports even existed and even now will give no details of what the reviews found.
It is hardly surprising then, that claimants are unable to prove that the DWP repeatedly makes the same errors and that its failed systems are causing the needless deaths of claimants. The DWP is very much better at covering-up errors than it is at avoiding making them.
Jodey’s mother, Joy Dove, is considering whether to apply for permission to appeal the decision.
“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.”
More details from the Leigh Day website