‘I applied for 1,700 jobs but didn’t get one – so I had to move down south’

A man who lived in a North East town says he was forced to move down south to find work after unsuccessfully applying for more than 1,700 jobs in six months.

Trained army combat medic Russell Phillips moved from Dorset to Hartlepool in the North East earlier this year to be with his wife.

But the 38-year-old says there was “no work” and he was left struggling on Universal Credit , questioning his self-worth and "begging for scraps".

He was finally forced to admit defeat after unsuccessfully applying for an astonishing 1,780 jobs.

He's returned to the south coast where he was able to find a new job in just two weeks as a communities psychiatric officer. But it means he will only be able to see his wife and her daughter at weekends.

Figures obtained by the Mirror for our unique Town 2020 series reveal that Hartlepool has the highest rate of unemployment in the country – with 8.3% of people out of work.

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Mr Phillips said: "It was so much easier to find work in Dorset.

"Within a couple of weeks I had guaranteed employment, after I'd applied to 1,780 jobs in Hartlepool."

Nearby Middlesbrough – which is the most deprived town – and Redcar also rank poorly for employment highlighting the difficulties faced for those seeking work in the region.

It has traditionally provided lifelong jobs in the steel industry but thousands of jobs are estimated to have been lost in the area over the last decade.

Mr Phillips had applied for jobs in factories and warehousing. But he says the jobs often required him to take expensive qualifications before he would be considered for the roles.

He also says many jobs he has applied for are out of town and require him to spend large amounts of money on petrol.

He claims he once spent a much-needed £40 on fuel costs for a round-trip to attend a job interview – only to be told when he arrived that it was likely to be filled by an internal applicant.

Mr Phillips says while living with his wife they would have been penalised for finding work.

After declaring they were living together in a relationship, Mr Phillips and his wife found their combined Universal Credit set at £1,120 a month.

Their rent was £500 a month – not including council tax – and they spent £400 a month on a car that Mr Phillips needed to job hunt around the region.

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