Jodey Whiting’s family told an inquest she took her own life after her benefits were stopped :: The decision was overturned after her death
The mother of tragic benefits mum Jodey Whiting today said: “Sorry isn’t good enough” after receiving a government apology following her daughter’s death.
Disabled mum-of-nine Jody’s inquest was told she committed suicide after her Employment Support Allowance was stopped for missing one appointment.
But Department of Work and Pensions bosses have now apologised to her family after its staff left Jodey a voicemail – despite being told of her death.
And it’s emerged the decision to stop her claim, which her family say was the “trigger” behind her suicide, was overturned after her death.
Clutching the apology letter, grieving mum Joy Dove said: “Sorry isn’t good enough, and it doesn’t bring my daughter back.
“To me, this apology proves they feel some guilt.”
Joy is now planning a campaign, dubbed ‘Justice for Jodey’, in her 42-year-old daughter’s memory.
Teesside Coroner’s Court heard lifelong back problems left the retired shop worker barely able to leave her Stockton home, while she previously battled mental health problems.
But a heartbreaking chain of events was ultimately attributed to her death.
* Jodey was told to attend a health assessment on January 16
* The DWP asked her why she failed to attend, which she stated she was in hospital with a brain cyst and never received an appointment letter, although the body claimed there was no evidence to support this.
* A decision maker ruled on February 6 that she hadn’t provided sufficient evidence, and her benefits were stopped.
* On February 10, Jodey “raised concerns” about the decision, before formally appealing that decision three days later.
* On February 21, Jodey committed suicide.
* A different decision maker ruled on February 25 that, despite extra evidence from Jodey, her claim should still be closed.
However, the DWP’s system wasn’t updated until March 1 – over a week after she passed away.
That meant staff left a voicemail for Jodey which Joy claims broke her heart.
“It was bang out of order, unforgiveable,” said the 63-year-old.
“I was upset and crying when I heard the message and just wanted to fill up.”
Addressing the error, the DWP’s Karen Hibbert states in the letter: “This clearly should not have happened.”
The letter also states the DWP didn’t receive notice of Jodey’s final appeal over her benefit cuts until over a month after a death.
That appeal included a letter from Stockton ’s Citizen Advice Bureau dated February 15, six days before her death.
She had turned up at their offices with a “number of unopened letters”, including her appointment letter.
It was claimed that her mental health condition meant she struggled to “deal” with her mail.
Citizen’s Advice requested that the DWP reverse its decision to stop her payments, and in the letter to Jodey’s family, the DWP states: “In light of this further evidence, on 31 March 2017 the decision on Jodey’s claim for ESA was changed.
“I hope you will accept my assurance that this decision was based entirely on the evidence contained within the appeal notice we received on 23 March.”
It added: “My apologies for those aspects of our service that fell below our usual standards.”
For Joy, as she clutches a picture of her “beautiful” daughter, it is an apology she struggles to accept.
“They should have just believed what Jodey was saying, or at least made a few calls themselves rather than just end it all there and then.
“There are a lot of things they can work on.”
The DWP has since made back payments of Jodey’s benefit money to her family. It declined to make further comment.
Following her inquest, a spokesperson said: “Our thoughts are with Miss Whiting’s family at this difficult time.
“Suicide is a very complex issue.”
Her inquest ruled she died following a drug cocktail. No blame was attributed to the body by coroner Jo Wharton.
But Joy said: “I still think they are in the wrong.
“My Jodey has gone now, but I want this to stop happening to other people.”