Disabled teenager ‘too old’ for Butlin’s event

Disappointed: Vinny Holman and his mother Catherine. Photograph by Jon Rigby
Disappointed: Vinny Holman and his mother Catherine. Photograph by Jon Rigby

A Newhaven mother was disappointed to hear Butlin’s holiday resort would not let her disabled son attend an event because he was too old.

Catherine Guillossou, whose 16-year-old son Vinny has severe learning difficulties, said she was told the event was only open to children under five years old.

“I find it so incredibly unfair a child with learning difficulties who is still like a five-year-old in his mind is denied access,” said Ms Guillossou.

Vinny, who suffered a brain injury at birth, hoped to see his favourite CBeebies presenter Justin Fletcher (known as Mr Tumble) performing live at Butlin’s in Bognor this month.

His mother said a Butlin’s representative told her families would be ‘unhappy’ to see older children. She said Butlin’s told her many similar requests had been made.

Ms Guillossou, who is a health care worker, said: “The character of Mr Tumble is very much for inclusion of children with disabilities and additional needs but those children are not welcome at Butlin’s.

“Justin Fletcher is Vinny’s very favourite artist, he loves him and his programme so much. My son watches the show for hours, he laughs and interacts with Mr Tumble.

“To see Justin live would have been his dream come true.”

When Ms Guillossou suggested Butlin’s put on an event welcoming older children with learning difficulties, she said the customer service team ‘did not seem understanding or interested’.

Justin Fletcher, who performs on CBeebies as Mr Tumble, uses Makaton sign language in his shows to include children with communication difficulties, according to Ms Guillossou.

The mother-of-three said: “I would like to ask Butlin’s why access to Justin Fletcher’s shows is refused even though those with learning difficulties might share the same interests as a five-year-old.

“It would be very interesting to find out what Justin Fletcher thinks about children being refused access to Butlin’s to see him because they are too old.”

Vinny lives with his mother Catherine, his father Bob Holman and his 18-year-old brother Tom. He has an older sister Charmaine, 22, and attends Downs View School in Woodingdean.

A Butlin’s spokesman said: “The breaks that Justin Fletcher appears at are our Just for Tots breaks, which are for pre-school age children and their families.

“When we spoke to the guest we did our best to find an alternative for them by finding what sort of activities they liked, other shows they enjoyed etc. We discussed all the options and explained that we would personally go through every step of the booking process with them.

“Having showed where they could be viewed in detail online, we said we’d leave the family to consider them at their leisure and if they were interested in booking any of them we would call back and help them.”