North Wootton mother accuses council over lack of help for deaf son, three

Katie Raworth with her son Zavier Hunt, also with Katie are her children Summer and Alexis Hunt and Friend Jenni Milburn, at North wootton Pr-School ANL-150924-132649009
Katie Raworth with her son Zavier Hunt, also with Katie are her children Summer and Alexis Hunt and Friend Jenni Milburn, at North wootton Pr-School ANL-150924-132649009

A mother has accused county education chiefs of discrimination after they refused to provide full communications support for her profoundly deaf son.

Katie Raworth claims Norfolk County Council are acting illegally by failing to offer full-time help to three-year-old Zavier, even though government officials say he should get that help.

But the authority says it has followed national guidelines and can only provide extra cover when Zavier starts school.

Zavier attends the North Wootton Pre-School, where he currently receives 15 hours of support per week. But that leaves a full day and a morning session where he does not receive the additional help.

Miss Raworth said: “The staff do what they can when he doesn’t have communications support but, unless they can sign or point at things, there is no communication with him, other pupils or staff.”

She said she has been fighting to secure extra help since June last year, despite having a statement of special educational needs from the Department for Education supporting her.

Officials from the government department also maintain the document is effective from the moment it is issued, meaning the council should be providing additional support.

But the council insists Zavier is only entitled to the help he is already getting until he starts school next September and Miss Raworth should liaise with the pre-school to arrange extra support in the meantime.

Michael Bateman, Norfolk County Council’s education inclusion service, yesterday said: “We’ve followed national code of practice by offering support for Zavier while he is attending his nationally funded 15 hours a week of pre-school.

“As he is attending pre-school for more than the nationally funded 15 hours for which we provide support, we have offered the pre-school staff 10 training sessions in sign language to enable them to support Zavier for all his sessions.”

However, Miss Raworth, a student, said she could not afford to pay for extra cover and will keep fighting for the support she says Zavier needs.

She has contacted North West Norfolk MP Henry Bellingham, established a Communication for Zavier campaign page on Facebook and launched an online petition demanding compulsory support for all deaf children in pre-schools.

She added she would sue the authority if she could afford to do so, as she believes its stance is illegal, and said: “It’s not fair to treat my child differently from any other child.”