Tees

Ken Loach backs benefit deaths inquiry campaign

Jodey Whiting
Image caption Jodey Whiting had physical and mental health issues when her benefits were wrongly stopped

The man behind hard-hitting cinema hit I, Daniel Blake has backed a Teesside mother's campaign for an independent inquiry into the deaths of disability benefit claimants.

Jodey Whiting from Stockton took her own life in 2017 after her benefit payments were stopped.

Her mother, Joy Dove, set up a "Justice for Jodey" petition which came to the attention of film-maker Ken Loach.

He got in touch to offer support and described her campaign as "humbling".

Ms Whiting was suffering from pneumonia when she missed a capability assessment but was then ruled fit to work and had her Employment and Support Allowance halted.

Following her death, an independent inquiry found the Department for Work (DWP) had breached its own rules and ordered it to apologise and pay £10,000 compensation.

Ms Dove set up a petition calling for an independent inquiry into deaths of benefit claimants which has so far attracted more than 27,500 signatures.

Image caption Joy Dove described Ken Loach as lovely and said he spoke to her for over an hour

Ms Dove told BBC Tees she spoke on the telephone to Mr Loach her for over an hour.

"We got talking, he's a lovely person, I felt I'd known him for years", she said.

She then received a letter from his assistant on his behalf which read: "It has clearly been a hideous situation for you and the whole family, and your courage in pursuing justice for your daughter is humbling.

"We are forwarding a message of support on our twitter account and also signed the petition - I hope this generates some interest in your fight."

In relation to the petition, the DWP said in a statement: "We apologised to Ms Whiting's family for the failings in how we handled her case and the distress this caused them.

"Our thoughts are with them at this difficult time and we provided compensation."

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