Jonathan Wainwright, 43, of Wath-upon-Dearne, had just undergone open heart surgery but was subjected to sexism after he was ‘abandoned’ by the council and support was instead offered to his ex-wife, an investigation found.
When his son, William, was diagnosed as being severely autistic, Jonathan left his role as a teacher and became a full-time stay-at-home dad and was recognised by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) as his carer.
He said he had a ‘life threatening illness’ towards the end of 2016 and while recovering from surgery in 2017 his pleas for help were ignored, despite asking for support from the council’s disabled children’s team.
An investigation - which was launched when Jonathan complained about being ‘completely abandoned’ - found more support was provided to William’s mum - his ex-wife - and there were no efforts to involve him in discussions about the youngster’s care.
His complaint was upheld by the investigator, who found the council failed to consult him on the needs of his son and made important decisions about his care without him.
“Fundamentally, this wouldn’t have happened to a mother and they admitted that they treat dads differently - it’s blatant, blatant sexism,” he said.
“My biggest concern is that discrimination towards me led to discrimination of a Child In Need.
“Where disabled children are concerned, our social care services find it very difficult to define what vulnerability means as a borough we need to get better.
“Disability doesn’t discriminate against class, creed or wealth - anyone can have a disabled child. We don’t need saving we need supporting”.
The investigation report added: “The staff interviewed agreed that their treatment of Mr Wainwright was different to how they would treat a mother in similar circumstances and they agree he was at times ignored and they felt no reason to consult him.
“The staff said that it was common practice in the team to involve fathers where children lived with their mother and yet they did not try to involve Mr Wainwright.
“The records show that there were many more contacts made with Mrs Wainwright.”
Jonathan says that his relationship with his son is ‘irreparably damaged’ due to the ordeal which saw him not see William for more than two years.
“I went to every single service and nobody wanted to help me,” he said.
“If a mother was unable to see her child she’d do everything she could to get them back and it’s fine - but it’s different because I’m a man.
“One minute I was passionate, the next I was angry - it all depends on who’s telling your story and why.
“My relationship has been irreparably damaged with my son as these decisions led to much more serious allegations and treatment.
“The compensation offered is disrespectful and the accompanying letter from the council legal team cites my work as a campaigner.
“My son’s treatment should not be affected by my right to campaign for the rights of others.”
Mel John-Ross, executive director for children’s services, said the council accepts the findings.
She told the Chronicle: “The complaints made by Mr Wainwright have been independently investigated and we have fully accepted the findings.
“We have implemented all of the recommendations and the learning from this complaint.
“We have offered Mr Wainwright our apologies and have reviewed our processes in light of the findings.
“We have offered Mr Wainwright compensation which is considered reasonable regarding the findings of the independent investigation, which to date hasn’t been accepted but we will continue our negotiations with Mr Wainwright.
“We continue to make strenuous efforts in building a positive working relationship with Mr Wainwright.
“We remain fully committed to equality and diversity in all aspects of our work and in ensuring that we work in partnership with our customers in a mutually respectful way.”