Father of disabled boy accuses council of sexism after his pleas for help are ignored

A father-of-three was a victim of sexism when Barnsley Metropolitan Borough Council helped his ex-wife care for their disabled son but ignored his pleas for support when he was recovering from open-heart surgery.

Jonathan Wainwright said:"Had I been a woman, this would never, ever have happened."

The council’s Disabled Children’s Team did not determine whether “reasonable adjustments” could have been made to allow Jonathan Wainwright to see his son, who has severe autistic spectrum disorder, but provided his ex-wife with additional support from a personal assistant (PA), an independent investigation found.

In a report, the investigator appointed to review the case after Mr Wainwright lodged a complaint, said the team “made no attempt to remain in contact” with him after his marriage ended and staff admitted they would have treated a mother differently in similar circumstances.

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The 43-year-old father was not consulted when the council’s Disabled Children’s Team assessed the needs of his son, who is now 10 years old, and important decisions were made about his care.

His complaint, which stated he had been the victim of gender discrimination, was upheld by the investigator and the council has apologised and offered him compensation.

“The fundamental thing about all of this is had I been a woman, this would never, ever have happened,” said Mr Wainwright.

“I was seriously ill and I was requiring care myself, so I had to be cared for by my parents.

“I didn’t see (his son) at all and I was begging the council for support to see my child.

“I had no money and I’d just found a flat to live in, yet they wouldn’t give me any PA support, but more than doubled the PA support for the mother.”

Mr Wainwright quit his job as a teacher and cared for his son for several years while his wife worked full time, until he fell ill in December 2016.

His marriage broke down and after he underwent open-heart surgery in November 2017, he was asked to leave the family home and divorce proceedings began

After he was admitted to hospital, the council’s Disabled Children’s Team agreed that William and his mother should receive an extra five hours a week of support from a PA, taking the total to 10 hours.

Mel John-Ross, Executive Director for Children's Services at Barnsley Council, said: "The complaints made by Mr Wainwright have been independently investigated, and we have 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 has to date hasn't been accepted.

"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."