Sting joins inclusive employment campaign

17-time Grammy Award winning artist Sting has lent his voice to a campaign that calls on employers and workplaces to be more inclusive.

For World Down Syndrome Day 2021, CoorDown presents THE HIRING CHAIN, the international communication campaign developed in partnership with the New York-based creative agency SMALL and thanks to the support of LinkedIn.

Ahead of World Down Syndrome Day on Sunday 21 March, CoorDown, the National Association for people who have Down Syndrome in Italy, is launching their global awareness campaign ‘The Hiring Chain’. Their message to employers all over the world is that hiring a person who has Down’s syndrome not only changes the life of the person concerned, but can trigger a virtuous circle of new opportunities for everyone.

The Hiring Chain campaign is working with the Down’s Syndrome Association (DSA) here in the UK, to support ‘WorkFit’, their national employment programme, which has so far developed 417 employment opportunities for people who have Down’s syndrome.

In the UK, employment figures for people who have learning disabilities were painfully low before the Covid-19 pandemic, but now the Down’s Syndrome Association says it fears numbers will fall even further, and is appealing to employers to consider making their workforce more inclusive.

In 2019-20, just 5.6% of adults with learning disabilities in England were in paid employment – a figure that has fallen from the previous year.

Sting, the award-winning artist, performs the original song “The Hiring Chain”, which is the focus of the campaign video. The punchy, joyful lyrics come to life on screen and bear witness to the “virtuous” chain of inclusion in the workplace. In the first scene, a young woman named Simone is at work at the bakery, showing customers her skills. One of these customers is a lawyer who is impressed and decides in turn to hire a young man and give him a chance. From there, a chain reaction ensues: the young men and women featured in the video and song show that the more people who have Down’s syndrome are seen at work, the more they are recognised as valuable employees. Challenging low expectations and prejudices, thus creating opportunities for new hires.

The campaign takes up the challenge of the pandemic and the social crisis to affirm that job inclusion is not only a right to be guaranteed now more than ever for every person, but it brings benefits in the workplace and in society at large.

Why Work Matters

Being more independent, contributing to society, having your own income, learning new skills, meeting new people, and feeling valued. People who have Down’s syndrome want to work for the same reasons as anyone else. But most people who have Down’s syndrome face barriers and prejudices, lack of opportunities, low expectations, and stereotypical attitudes. Debunking misconceptions about their potential and the benefits of an inclusive workplace are the stories and experiences of companies, employers, and employees. Every person who has Down syndrome can work if they want to. The goal is to find a role that fits each individual so they can do their job successfully. When given the right opportunity, people who have Down’s syndrome can achieve great things and have a positive impact on colleagues, customer satisfaction, culture, and motivation throughout the company. Diversity strengthens all workplaces. A virtuous cycle that spreads into the rest of society.

The Down’s Syndrome Association’s WorkFit programme

The DSA’s “WorkFit” programme was launched in England in 2011 and aims to develop and support mainstream employment opportunities for people who have Down’s syndrome. The programme currently has more than 1,000 candidates registered across England and Wales with a range of skills and abilities. Although only 5.6% of people with learning disabilities were in paid employment in 2019-2020, it is known that 65% of people with learning disabilities want to work[1]. The WorkFit programme is therefore a trailblazer in helping to fulfil the government’s aspiration to achieve equality for all disabled people by 2025, as set out in Improving the Life Chances of Disabled People[2] and support all disabled people to get a paid job.

“We’re all being asked to live differently due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but for many adults who have Down’s syndrome, their jobs and independence have been extremely hard won. Therefore, redundancy and long-term furlough has hit people hard. Many adults who have Down’s syndrome work in sectors that have been particularly impacted by Covid-19 such as hospitality, catering and retail. Employment rates for people who have learning disabilities are already incredibly low, and we are desperate for them not to fall further. So we’re appealing for businesses large or small, to get on board and consider employing someone who has Down’s syndrome.”
Carol Boys, Chief Executive, Down’s Syndrome Association

WorkFit is based on the simple premise that if people who have Down’s syndrome and employers are given appropriate training and continued support, sustained employment can be achieved. The WorkFit programme is successful – 92% of candidates placed by WorkFit who have been in permanent paid work continue to be employed.

WorkFit operates successfully without the need for job coaches or other third-party stakeholders by using a workplace “buddy” system which significantly reduces overall costs and provides a more organic and typical career pathway for employees who have often had their different abilities highlighted and stigmatised. The WorkFit “buddy” system means that colleagues support each other and complement each other’s skills and abilities.

The Work and Pensions Committee are currently holding an inquiry into why so many people who have disabilities find it difficult to find jobs. The Down’s Syndrome Association has written a report into this and hopes to help close the current disability employment gap.

“The Hiring Chain” campaign was produced by CoorDown in partnership with the New York-based creative agency SMALL, with the invaluable support of Indiana Production. The original song, performed by Sting, was composed by Stabbiolo Music. This year’s global campaign was again supported by the Down’s Syndrome Association and Down Syndrome Australia, with the patronage of DSi – Down Syndrome International. The campaign has also been supported by Fondazione Cariplo and LinkedIn whose Italian office partnered with CoorDown over the past 12 months.

World Down Syndrome Day (WDSD) is an international event – set up by Down Syndrome International and officially observed by the United Nations since 2012. It gives us the chance to raise awareness, champion inclusion and celebrate the 40,000 people who have Down’s syndrome in the UK who play a vital role in our lives and communities. The theme this year is CONNECTand aims to connect the global community of people who have Down’s syndrome in innovative ways to continue advocating for equal rights and opportunities.

Why do people wear mismatched socks on World Down Syndrome Day?

Because chromosomes look like socks and people who have Down’s syndrome have an extra copy of chromosome 21. People therefore wear mismatched socks and use the hashtag #LotsOfSocks on social media to show their support.

Why March 21?

The 21 of the third month was chosen because people who have Down’s syndrome have three copies of chromosome 21 rather than two.

Want to join the hiring chain?

Employers inspired by the film should visit www.hiringchain.org
The campaign’s official hashtags are: #HiringChain#WorldDownSyndromeDay #WDSD21

[1] Valuing Employment Now; real jobs for people with learning disabilities, p2, Department of Health, (2009)

[2] Improving the Life Chances of Disabled People, Prime minister’s strategy unit (2005)