'Prove this tragedy won't happen again'

A FURIOUS MP last night called on social services chiefs to give reassurances that the failures which led to the tragic death of toddler Emily Wilkinson would not be repeated.

A FURIOUS MP last night called on social services chiefs to give reassurances that the failures which led to the tragic death of toddler Emily Wilkinson would not be repeated.

The 22-month-old who drowned in her grandmother's garden pond was let down by a catalogue of failures by two authorities, it emerged on Friday, after her parents Richard and Karen Wilkinson each began two-and-a-half-year jail terms for her manslaughter.

Last night, West Suffolk MP Richard Spring, whose constituency includes Great Bradley where Emily lived and died, demanded Suffolk County Council bosses reveal in detail the changes made that will avert similar tragedies.

He also called for them to explain why no-one in the social services department had been reprimanded over what happened.

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His demands were echoed by Emily's grandmother, Bridget Willis, who still lives in the village near Haverhill. She wants to see evidence showing steps have been taken to ensure other children do not suffer the same terrible fate as her granddaughter.

"This is certainly not good enough. I want a full explanation about what's been done and I'm prepared to fight for it."

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And she believes heads should roll for what was allowed to happen to Emily.

Emily had been placed on the Child Protection Register in May 2002, and briefly placed in care, when her parents lived in neighbouring Cambridgeshire.

But she was then taken off the register and when her family moved to Suffolk the concerns of Cambridgeshire workers were forwarded to their counterparts across the border but Suffolk did not put Emily on its own register.

Cliff James, head of children's services at Suffolk County Council, admitted mistakes had been made but said lessons had been learnt and subsequent improvements had led to recognition of the high level of service offered in Suffolk.

However, he stopped short of detailing the changes and insisted it was not considered appropriate to reprimand any single member of staff as a result of Emily's death in February 2003.

Mr Spring said the statement was not good enough, adding: "Suffolk County Council has received good marks from the audit commission but the one area where it consistently fails to live up to the expectations of the people of Suffolk is in the social care area and I believe this (Emily's death) is a manifestation of that problem.

"Clearly there are shortcomings and the county council needs to indicate to the people of Suffolk how they will make sure this never happens again.

"I want to know exactly what it means when they say improvements have been made. I think we're entitled to know exactly what they are and I think we need to know why no-one has been held personally responsible.

"I will be writing to the director of social services asking for further clarification on these matters and I will be asking for specifics."

Last night, a spokesman for Suffolk County Council said they "greatly regretted" the tragic death of Emily, and reiterated the fact their child protection work had been improved.

He added: "We have employed more social workers to enable them to give more attention to each of the many cases they have to deal with.

"We have employed more managers more locally to supervise this work. Cases are now subject to regular audit and strengthened procedures and improved working helps staff to deal with cases like this where no single incident such as violence to a child has happened, but there is rather a variable history of neglect."

He said the new working practices had been subjected to a rigorous government inspection and received a two-star rating (out of three), offering "good protection to children".

On Friday - on the day Richard and Karen Wilkinson, from Brandon, were jailed at Ipswich Crown Court - Suffolk County Council published a report by the Suffolk Area Child Protection Committee which criticised social services in both Cambridgeshire and Suffolk and describes a nightmarish litany of squalor into which Emily Wilkinson was born.

It said: "Chronic ongoing neglect, with domestic violence, the probability of emotional neglect and parental incapacity due to drugs and alcohol was not dealt with. It was allowed to 'rumble on' with no-one getting to grips with what was going on in this household.

"It (Emily's death) was an avoidable accident. The agencies failed to take action to safeguard Emily and to set time limited conditions on the parents to improve the quality of care."

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