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'The damage has already been done' - Parents call for answers over letter blunder as apologies are sent

PUBLISHED: 13:38 04 October 2019 | UPDATED: 14:04 04 October 2019

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

Archant

We are pleased you are looking for answers - but hurry up and find them.

Lizzy Jones with her son Kai. Pic: Lizzy Jones.Lizzy Jones with her son Kai. Pic: Lizzy Jones.

That is the message to Norfolk County Council from parents wrongly contacted reminding them to enrol their deceased children in school a week ago.

Letters of apology co-signed by council leader Andrew Proctor and director of children's services Sara Tough have started landing on the doorsteps of the 41 families affected, explaining that investigations into the mistake are well under way.

However, parents say that unless the investigation delivers answers and - more importantly - solutions, the gesture is hollow.

Susie Thorndyke, of Forncett St Mary near Diss, whose son James died from Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID) just before first birthday, said: "As I have said before, the damage has already been done, but I am glad the council is taking it seriously.

A letter of apology sent to a parent by Norfolk County Council. Names have been redacted. Picture: SubmittedA letter of apology sent to a parent by Norfolk County Council. Names have been redacted. Picture: Submitted

"It would be wholly wrong for this to happen again next year, so the most important thing now is to sort it out.

"The life drained from me reading the first letter, that should not have to happen to anybody else and it is the council's responsibility to make sure it doesn't."

Lizzy Jones, 28 and of Rockland St Mary, whose son died in April 2016, said: "I think it is appalling that it took this all being made public to get a meaningful response.

"It is nearly a week after I received the first letter and made the council aware and I feel it would have been brushed under the carpet had it not been in the public eye.

"I want to know what happened and that it will never happen again - things have to change. I feel so saddened by the whole thing."

The letter from the council says they will "make absolutely certain this mistake cannot and will not happen again".

A Norfolk County Council spokesman said: "The county council has confirmed an internal audit is under way and at pace and we assure families we are trying to find out how this happened.

"As soon as we know, we will inform people."

What the latest letter said

Dear [parent/s],

We are truly sorry that you were mistakenly sent a school's admission letter for your [son/daughter and name], who has sadly passed away.

Please accept our sincerest apologies for the distress this letter will have caused you and your family.

This letter should never have been sent out in the first place which is why we have launched an investigation through our internal audit department to find out how this occurred and to make absolutely certain that this mistake cannot and will not happen again.

The situation is being taken very seriously and we wanted to write to you personally to apologise and say what action we are taking.

If you would like any support at this difficult time you may wish to contact our family information service on 01603 223501 or fis@norfolk.gov.uk

Yours sincerely,

Andrew Proctor, Sara Tough

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