Giving Voice to the British Oppressed
A Mother’s Job by Joy Dove with Ann and Joe Cussack
Released September 2022
In February 2017, mother of nine children Jodey Whiting killed herself. Despite suffering from major health problems and needing daily care, the government department for work and pensions had halted her benefit payments, sending notification in a letter that she didn’t actually see until after their cessation. She died in despair while awaiting the outcome of her appeal, with no money coming in aged just 42. Another DWP letter pronouncing her "fit to work" was sent to her home three days after her tragic death.
A Mother's Job is the story of how Jodey's mum Joy Dove, took on the system at the age of 67—and won justice for her daughter.
Joy reveals how she struggled to raise her family, as a single mother, living on the now notorious "Benefits Street" estate in Stockton-on-Tees. How Jodey, her middle daughter, developed problems, including curvature of the spine, a brain cyst, and bipolar and personality disorders and how, as her health deteriorated, Joy became her unofficial carer.
In one of the farewell notes Jodey left when she committed suicide, she warned that her youngest son, Cory, a twin, was very vulnerable. Tragically, her premonition was realised when, unable to cope with his grief, he died from a drug overdose, aged 19, in May 2020.
Joy felt that the DWP had stolen two members from her family.
An inquiry after Jodey's death found the DWP had failed to follow its own safeguarding practice. It issued an apology and compensation. The case was discussed in Parliament where the Prime Minister labelled it "appalling." Joy launched "Justice for Jodey", which aims to hold the DWP to account and to prevent other tragedies.
She met other families, bereaved when loved ones had also suffered at the hands of the DWP and the government’s policies and her campaign saw her take centre stage at the Labour Party conference and argue her case in the High Court.
As the conservative government announces its intention for a fresh round of massive cuts to public services this book reminds us that there are dire consequences for such policies. People die because of such ideological actions. As winter approaches with many people (including many working people) having to rely on food banks to feed their families because their salaries won’t stretch to cover rent or mortgages and energy costs as well the general rise in the cost of living its never been more important to tell the stories of those so severely affected by policies that were never put before the electorate and which can result in despair, desperation, poverty, starvation and destitution.
“I am just an ordinary mum, yet I would go to the ends of the earth to get justice for my daughter. If I can change the way people are treated, then Jodey will not have died in vain. I now feel that this was her destiny; to change the lives of millions of others.“
When I narrated this book I was aware that there had been more than one death as a result of the draconian rules brought in with the Universal Credit system where many disabled, long term sick and mentally ill people were told they were fit to work even though it was bleeding obvious they weren't. And this isn't the first narrative to be created based on those kind of stories - Ken Loach's seminal, angry and heart-breaking
'I Daniel Blake' is an important mirror too.
Now more than ever we need to help tell the stories of those who are trodden underfoot by callous political ideology that cynically aims to consolidate power and wealth for a few people at the expense of the rest of us.
I hope you'll listen to Joy's story and share it with others.
Recorded from my studio in Sheffield