This Woman Asked Twitter to Help Get Her Stepson With Down Syndrome a Job
Fiona Hodge, of Liverpool, England, has a stepson named Ben Small, who has Down syndrome. Despite multiple work-placement programs, Small, 26, could not find employment.
Small’s experience included work at an employment support agency, an eight-month placement with a national pub chain and a third unpaid placement with an international burger chain. Here, he kept the dining area clean, assisted kitchen staff and worked the fryers. Despite the chain calling him in on extra days to assist when they expected to be busy, the placement again ended without the offer of paid work.
Several of the job placement training programs were career development projects, and therefore Small’s family didn’t mind that they were unpaid. However, Hodge became frustrated with the large commercial businesses that took Small on while he was working for free but then failed to offer him a job when his placement ended, despite his meeting performance expectations.
“To take one placement out and recruit another in their place seems to be solely to appear to be inclusive and improve their public image whilst actually exploiting people with learning disabilities, who may fail to recognize that they are being unfairly treated,” Hodge told The Mighty in an email. “Ben was simply happy to have a job like any other adult and didn’t appreciate that he was being used. ”
Hodge, who works as at a mental health day service, became increasingly fed up with the lack of opportunities for her stepson. Finally, she turned to Twitter for help.
She posted the tweet below on March 13. Since then, it has been retweeted more than 800 times.
Won't someone in the Liverpool area give my step son, Ben, who has Down's Syndrome a chance at a paid job? Motivated with NVQ 2 in catering
— Fleabag (@FleaBagLady) March 13, 2015
She then sent a request for a retweet to a British comedian named Boothby Graffoe, who designed a new tweet that included a photo of Small and some more information about him.
— boothby graffoe (@boobygraffoe) March 13, 2015
After that, support in the form of retweets and responses began to flow in, and the hashtag #GiveBenAJob was born. By Monday morning, local radio stations and news outlets picked up the story.
— Fleabag (@FleaBagLady) March 19, 2015
“The public and media reaction has been hard to take in,” Hodge told The Mighty. “I’m stunned at how many people cared enough about one young man. I hoped for enough of a flurry of interest to reach a few local employers who would be willing to consider employing Ben and willing to make the necessary adjustments for him to utilize his skills to the fullest. I had no idea the country, never mind the rest of the world, would engage with the appeal so much.”
Interest in Small’s story quickly spread to the U.S. and Canada, but Hodge says she’s seen waves of tweets over the past few days from all over the world. There was a surge of tweets in Spanish one day and an influx of retweets from Thailand and Singapore yesterday morning.
“The response has been astonishing,” Hodge told The Mighty. “It gathered momentum really quickly.”
Many job offers have since come in, and as of Thursday morning, Small has been hired for his first official paid job. Wilson’s Kitchen, a restaurant in Liverpool, offered him a position.
“The owner, Lloyd, is such a nice guy and has a close family member with Down syndrome,” Hodge told The Mighty. “He fully understands the challenges facing people with a learning disability and the capacity to lead a full and rewarding life in the community.”
Small will start this Saturday with a five-hour shift once a week. His family is still pursuing some of the other offers to fill his remaining time during the week. They’re hopeful that he can find a job that for at least one or two more shifts a week, until he eventually finds something with working hours five day a week.
“He doesn’t need charity,” Hodge told The Mighty. “He’s a hard worker and can do any practical task without supervision once he learns it.”
Small and his family know he won’t be able to follow up on all the positions he’s been offered thanks to the Twitter campaign, but they’re hopeful the companies who’ve offered will consider doing the same for other people with disabilities in the future. Hodge also says that she plans to try and match up people in need of to all the opportunities that have come up.
To offer a job to Ben Small or to get in touch with his family, please email [email protected]