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'It will never happen again' - pledge after council establishes reason for blunder over dead children

PUBLISHED: 10:35 19 October 2019 | UPDATED: 10:56 19 October 2019

Baby James Thorndyke and his mother Susie. James died just before his first birthday of a rare genetic condiditon - severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID). Photo: Submitted

Baby James Thorndyke and his mother Susie. James died just before his first birthday of a rare genetic condiditon - severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID). Photo: Submitted

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"It will not happen again", council bosses have pledged after an investigation uncovered the blunder which led to parents whose children had died being sent letters urging them to register for school places.

Andrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council. Pic: Norfolk County Council.Andrew Proctor, leader of Norfolk County Council. Pic: Norfolk County Council.

Norfolk County Council sent school admission letters to 41 grieving families, asking them to enrol children who had died years previously.

The letters related to 42 children who had died, with two of the children from the same family.

Parents who were sent the letters had spoken of their heartache at being reminded of a key milestone for their children which they would never see and demanded answers.

Council leader Andrew Proctor and Sara Tough, director of children's services, wrote to the families to apologise and an internal audit has now established what went wrong.

MORE: Blunder meant more than 40 bereaved Norfolk families were asked to enrol dead children for school

The council had received data about children from the NHS for many years, which has long been used to update databases for schools, children's centres and early years providers.

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But the way the data was shared changed in September last year, with data about children who had died also being transferred to the council.

The audit found that the teams who process the admissions letters were not correctly informed that such data was now being provided - so were not aware they needed to ensure it was not included.

It found there had been "a combination of internal communication errors", but that no single officer was at fault or responsible.

Better checks and balances have been put in place and procedures changed to prevent a repeat, while a further audit will further review policies.

Mr Proctor said: "We are very sorry, because it is an error which should never have happened in the first place.

"We have looked at all the issues about where the data came from and what happened with it. I am satisfied the audit has come to the right conclusion, recognising the failure of communication and procedures and it has reassured me that this is something that will never happen again."

Susie Thorndyke, of Forncett St Mary, near Diss, one of the parents affected, said: "I do understand that errors happen in any job, but it does seem a very bizarre situation given the fact you register deaths with the council themselves.

"However, as long as the council makes sure it never happens again, that's all we can really ask."

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