If delegates at the Labour conference thought Jodey Whiting was a solitary case of DWP negligence leading to death, they should consider that of Ayman Habayeb.
Ms Whiting’s mother, Joy Dove, told delegates at a Labour conference fringe meeting how the Department for Work and Pensions ignored its own safeguarding procedures on five separate occasions before her daughter committed suicide.
And the DWP destroyed a document detailing similar failures on only 18 other Job Centres, after a Freedom of Information request was submitted, demanding its release.
Now we learn of Mr Habayeb, a 28-year-old man who was diagnosed with autism and depression, who took his own life after the DWP cut his benefits and he became unable to afford food.
A detailed suicide note was discovered on his computer by his grieving parents.
It described how he was ordered to attend a “work capability assessment” and refused.
He wrote: “I attended one before. The outcome was they reduced my benefits and completely ignored my needs.
“Such assessments are obviously not meant to help the disabled stay on benefits but to instead save the government money.
“I cannot be bothered to fight this any more. I am out of energy. I only exist to do what I want to do. Dealing with paperwork, making phone calls, and feeling anxious every day about whether I am going to be homeless are things I do not want to do.”
That note was written in summer 2018, and in November he hanged himself in his Milton Keynes flat.
So why are you only reading about it now? Because his body was only found last month, nine months later, when housing association officials called – to evict him.
Despite the fact that Mr Habayeb had named the DWP in his suicide note, a spokesman for that department of the Conservative government still tried to deny that it bore any responsibility for the tragedy – by hiding behind the fact that an inquest had yet to take place.
And he fell back on an old standby argument that the DWP has been using for several years now.
He said: “Suicide is a very complex issue and while the inquest examines this tragic case, it wouldn’t be right to draw conclusions.”
Going back to Ms Dove: she started a petition for an independent inquiry into DWP-related deaths. The government has refused – point-blank – to hold one, in spite of all the evidence that its civil servants have caused many deaths – more than 100,000 are known.
If we must wait until after an inquest to draw conclusions about Mr Habayeb’s death, isn’t it only fair that we should hold that independent inquiry – to be able to draw conclusions about all the others as well? Or do the Tories already know what it would say?
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