Jodey Whiting: New inquest for Stockton woman who died after benefits stopped

Joy Dove, the mother of Stockton woman Jodey Whiting, has won an appeal to get a fresh inquest into her daughter's death. Credit: PA

The mother of a disabled woman who took her own life after her benefits were cut has won a legal battle for a second inquest into her daughter's death.

Jodey Whiting, 42, from Stockton, died in February 2017, about two weeks after her disability benefit was stopped when she did not attend a work capability assessment.

Her mother, Joy Dove, challenged a ruling given in June last year by two High Court judges, who refused to order a new inquest to investigate the role of the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) in Ms Whiting’s death.

She took her fight to the Court of Appeal, where judges heard her case in January and on Friday 17 March ruled there should be a new inquest.

  • Video report by Katie Cole.

Lady Justice Whipple, sitting with Lord Justice Lewis and Lord Justice William Davis, said in the ruling that a fresh inquest is “desirable in the interests of justice”.

The judge said the public has a “legitimate interest” in knowing whether Ms Whiting’s death was connected with the abrupt stopping of her benefits.

The coroner at the original inquest, which lasted 37 minutes, recorded a verdict of suicide.

At the appeal hearing in January, Ms Dove’s lawyers said the first inquest did not investigate “whether any acts or omissions of the DWP caused or contributed to Ms Whiting’s death” and argued the High Court judges reached the wrong conclusions.

They argued another inquest was necessary to consider fresh evidence of “multiple, significant failings” by the DWP when it terminated Ms Whiting’s employment and support allowance (ESA), which was not before the coroner at the time of the first inquest.

Jodey Whiting, 42, killed herself a week after her disability benefits were stopped. Credit: Family

Ms Whiting had received benefits for more than a decade due to serious, long-term physical and mental health issues, including severe pain and a history of self-harm.

In late 2016, the DWP started to reassess Ms Whiting, who said she needed a house visit as she was housebound, had severe anxiety and was unable to walk more than a few steps.

Ms Dove’s lawyers argued at the High Court in 2021 that a house visit was not properly considered before the DWP terminated her disability benefit, which led to Ms Whiting’s housing benefit and council tax benefit also being terminated.

The decision to terminate Ms Whiting’s benefit was overturned on 31 March, weeks after her death.

The independent case examiner, which investigates complaints about the DWP, later found multiple breaches of department policy, significant errors by staff and several “missed opportunities” for the DWP to reconsider the claim.

A Government spokesperson said: “Our sincere condolences remain with Ms Whiting’s family. DWP is ready to assist the new coroner with their investigation. We cannot comment on active legal proceedings.”

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