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Blunder means more bereaved parents sent letters to register their children for school, years after deaths

PUBLISHED: 17:24 29 September 2019 | UPDATED: 15:28 30 September 2019

Hollie Knightingale with Alissia, shortly before her death in 2016. Photo: Submitted

Hollie Knightingale with Alissia, shortly before her death in 2016. Photo: Submitted

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More grieving parents have spoken of their heartbreak after receiving letters about registering their child for school, years after they had died, as the extent of a council "admin error" starts to emerge.

Kian Horth died in 2016 aged six days old, but last week a letter was sent to his parents about registering him for school. Photo: SubmittedKian Horth died in 2016 aged six days old, but last week a letter was sent to his parents about registering him for school. Photo: Submitted

Yesterday we revealed how Norfolk County Council had sent letters to at least two bereaved parents urging them to apply for school places for September next year - even though their children had died.

Today, more affected families have come forward, demanding to know how the error was allowed to happen.

"Why would they want to remind me of this"

Hollie Nightingale's daughter Alissia was born at just 21 weeks old, and died 20 minutes later while her mother fought for her life in intensive care.

Kai Jno Baptiste. Pic: Lizzy Jones.Kai Jno Baptiste. Pic: Lizzy Jones.

For the next three years Ms Nightingale battled with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, reliving the traumatic events most nights as she lay awake in bed.

When a letter addressed to the parent or guardian of Alissia Chaplin arrived on Friday, the Stalham mother said she initially assumed it was a typing error and was about her oldest daughter, Anastasia.

But on reading, she realised there had been a serious error, and that the council was reminding her to register her late daughter for school.

She said: "Seeing the letter made me remember I'm not with my child. I'll never have those birthdays, Christmasses, or get that first day at school like I did with my other kids. All I could think was why would they want to remind me of all that?"

The letter which was sent by Norfolk County Council's admissions manager to Lizzy Jones. Pic: Lizzy Jones.The letter which was sent by Norfolk County Council's admissions manager to Lizzy Jones. Pic: Lizzy Jones.

Ms Nightingale reported the incident to County Hall, but said the switchboard operator was unable to provide any further help, although she apologised.

"Achieved nothing but pain"

Gina Prentice's son Kian Horth was born prematurely in February 2016, weighing just 888g.

Sara Tough, director of children services at Norfolk County Council. Pic: Norfolk County Council.Sara Tough, director of children services at Norfolk County Council. Pic: Norfolk County Council.

A problem with his oesophagus meant Kian was unable to swallow, and after major surgery to widen the airway Kian suffered a heart attack.

He died in his parents' arms, aged just six days.

When the letter inviting her to register their late son for school in September arrived, Ms Prentice and her partner Shaun Horth said it felt as if they were being tormented.

She said: "I am hurt and angry. It reminded me of the milestones we won't reach. There was no need for that letter to be sent and achieved nothing but making us who have lost children go through the pain again and again."

She immediately called Norfolk County Council, but said the operator told her the council did not realise Kian had died.

She is now calling on the council to explain exactly how the error occurred.

She said: "How does this happen in 2019, when the people sending the letter are the people who registered his death? They need to sort this system out so nobody else has to go through this heartbreak?"

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"A painful letter to receive"

Lisa Weller's daughter Francesca Rose was born on September 15, 2015, but died suddenly four hours later of group b strep, a normally harmless bacteria but which can be fatal to babies.

Ms Weller, 42, who lives in Diss, said: "It's a painful letter to receive as bereaved parents are already quite aware of all the milestones they miss.

"It's really unfortunate that Norfolk County Council have made this error regarding school admissions. I hope not many families have received this unfortunate letter."

And she said it was not the first letter mistake she had received since her daughter's death. She said: "I also got a letter in 2015 reminding me to register her birth.

"I had to contact the council to tell them I could not register Francesca's birth or death, as she was still under the coroner's as she had died at home."

"I felt like I hadn't felt like this since the day that Kai died"

Yesterday, Lizzy Jones, 28, spoke about her horror on receiving the letter.

Miss Jones's son Kai was born 24 weeks prematurely in 2015 and weighed just 1lb 8oz.

He battled for six months, but, with chronic lung disease, died in April 2016.

Miss Jones, from Rockland St Mary, said: "It was awful. I just fell down and couldn't stop crying. I felt like I hadn't felt like this since the day that Kai died.

"Kai starting school is one of those milestones that I'm never going to have with him."

One of Miss Jones's friends called the council to complain and, later in the day, she rang too. She was told data was pulled from NHS records, which were sometimes up to a year out of date.

The mother said she was angry a senior manager has not called to give a proper explanation or apology.

Apology and investigation promised

Yesterday, Sara Tough, director of children's services at Norfolk County Council, apologised for the error and said an investigation and review into the process had been launched.

She added: "I understand how distressing this must be for families who have lost a loved one.

"I would urge anyone who has been affected to contact us so that we can ensure that this doesn't happen to them again."

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