Petition Justice for Jodey Whiting. Independent inquiry into deaths linked to the DWP

We believe the death of Jodey Whiting in February 2017 was the latest avoidable tragedy to be caused by the failings of the Department for Work and Pensions.
She took her life 15 days after her disability benefits were stopped for missing a Work Capability Assessment when she was seriously ill.

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This petition calls for:
1. An independent inquiry to investigate DWP failings in relation to these deaths, including whether there has been misconduct by civil servants or Ministers.
2. Any evidence of misconduct contributing to serious harm or deaths to be turned over to the police.
3. Recognition that DWP is institutionally disablist and not fit for purpose.
4. DWP to urgently change its policies and administration of social security benefits to make the safety of all claimants a priority.

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Government responded

This response was given on 8 April 2019

DWP has apologised unreservedly for the failings in the case of Ms Whiting and recognises the importance of safeguarding. The Government has no plans to hold an inquiry into deaths of claimants.

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The case of Ms Whiting is undeniably tragic and complex. Her case has been looked at in detail by the Independent Case Examiner (ICE) who regrettably found several failings in the way her case was handled. We aim to maintain a very high level of customer service and one mistake is obviously one too many. Unfortunately, in this instance the expected standard of customer service was not achieved. The Department has apologised unreservedly for these failings and awarded the family compensation.

We currently have no plans to hold an independent inquiry into deaths relating to actions taken by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). The ICE did not find any evidence of misconduct by Civil Servants or Ministers. The DWP supports people with a wide variety of needs and staff are trained to identify signs of vulnerability which may include offering extra help with people’s benefits should they need it. The safeguarding of claimants is a priority and the department has a number of processes in place, including a home visiting service to check on people’s well-being, or offering help with completing forms, as well as signposting to specialist support provided by other organisations we work closely with.

Claimants of working age who wish to apply for Employment and Support Allowance because their health or disability impacts on their ability to work are usually required to attend a Work Capability Assessment. If a claimant fails to attend the assessment, our decision makers must check the claimant’s records for any history of mental health or other vulnerability. Where there are issues noted on the claimant’s record, decision makers are required to consider whether the claimant would benefit from a home visit.

We are committed to safeguarding vulnerable claimants and, in the tragic case where someone dies, ensuring that we respond swiftly and sensitively. In response to this case, we have changed guidance so that our staff update a claim where someone has sadly died within 48 hours, making sure we stop all unnecessary contact as quickly as possible. We keep our safeguarding guidance under constant review to ensure it provides the highest standard of protection to vulnerable people.

Whilst the Department absolutely recognises that in this particular case errors were made and the appropriate level of service was not met, we would emphasise the thousands of decisions that our staff make every day which result in claimants receiving the health and disability benefits that they need, as well as the assistance they require.

As previously stated, the DWP has apologised unreservedly for the failings in the case of Ms Whiting.

Department for Work and Pensions

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