Dad living on £2 a day after addiction wants to break welfare stigma

James Doris, from Solihull, says he’s keen to contribute to society, but competition, the benefits system and the trend towards video interviewing are making it difficult to find employment

James Doris in a suit
The benefit system can discourage people from continuing to work, says James Doris

A father who has overcome homelessness and addiction is now struggling to find a job despite his impressive resume – and wants to break the stigma associated with applying for welfare.

James Doris attends job interviews every week but says he’s missed opportunities because he can’t afford a suit or laptop for video interviews.

The 35-year-old had a successful career in events management, working at Wembley Stadium until he became addicted to prescription painkillers after suffering a back injury, BirminghamLive reports.

At his lowest point, James says he was taking 32 pills a day, his relationship fell apart, and he became homeless, sleeping at bus stops.

Now the father of one is two years clean and housed, living in a shared flat near Solihull town centre.

James said he was “desperate to contribute to society” but claims competition for jobs, problems with the benefit system and a shift to remote interviewing have made it extremely difficult for the unlucky to get work Find.

According to Bills, James said his Universal Credit allowance allows him £2 a day to live on.

He also had to rely on the kindness of strangers from Twitter to lend him a laptop and a suit for interviews.

James Doris was loaned a suit to help him with interviews



“It’s not enough to live on,” James said.

“After bills and basic shopping, I live on £2 a day.

“If I need a bus somewhere, I have to try to plan it for the same day.

“I’ve been in the system for over two years now. I used to have a good job, but I ended up getting addicted to painkillers from the doctor.

“After two years I realized I had lost so much weight and at my worst point my relationship fell apart.

“I took 32 pills a day, it was really bad.

“I lived on people’s sofas, at bus stops. I was truly homeless for about four weeks and ended up unemployed.

“I cleaned up and got into a shared apartment and about a year ago I started trying to get my career back on track.

“But it’s very difficult when the support isn’t there.”

James said he was turned down for a job because he didn’t have a suit.

The Department for Works and Pensions provided him with £70 for new clothes, which James said came too late for the interview.

“I’ve had six job interviews in the last three weeks where I’ve been rejected,” he said.

“It takes a hit to your confidence to keep getting rejected, but you just have to keep going.

“I didn’t get one of them because I didn’t have a suit. I’ve reached out to Universal Credit for help, but it can take forever for them to get back to you.

“I had an interview where they wanted us to do a video, but I couldn’t get a laptop in time.

“Right now there’s a huge demand for work, so a lot of people are vying for a role.

“Many places have also switched to technical interviews since the pandemic, which is just not an option for some people.

“It’s embarrassing to say I don’t have a suit or a laptop.

“I have two As and a B at A-Level. I worked at Network Rail as a planner, then at Chiltern and then got the job at Wembley.

“I have a good resume and experience, but think about how many people out there don’t have that.

“How are they going to find work and get their lives back on track? I just want to contribute to society.”

James recently asked for help on Twitter before a job interview and was given two suits and a loaned laptop by a kindhearted stranger who cycled to his home.

He hopes to change people’s perceptions of benefit recipients and has tweeted about his job-hunting experience.

“The idea that I’m sitting at home with the latest phone and widescreen TV and living my dream is nonsense,” James said.

“I wake up every day and work my best. I have a little girl who needs a role model, I have no time to waste.

“I think a lot of people see that the benefits system is broken, but they tend to take their frustration out on the people making claims.

“But there are many people like me who are desperate for work.

“In the last few weeks I have received the kindness of many people, for which I am very grateful.

“I hope more people stop generalizing people about benefits and be a little kinder.”

A Department for Works and Pensions spokesman told BirminghamLive: “We have provided Mr Doris with £70.57 for clothing and travel, offered access to computer facilities and our job coaches have been receptive and supportive in Mr Doris’ job search.

“Universal Credit provides millions of people with a vital safety net, enabling them to support themselves and their families while building financial independence through work, and is delivering results as unemployment has now fallen to pre-pandemic levels.

“Our dedicated work coaches connect people with available opportunities and we help more people access individual, tailored support.”

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