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Prioritising Benefits Claimants for Jury Service is an Easy Way to Cut Worklessness and Boost Growth.


Jury service is one of the least pleasant experiences I have ever undergone. For thirteen days I had to sit through traumatised teenage girls recounting abuse at the hands of a predatory stepfather.

I would have preferred to do anything – and I mean anything – even working down the sewers.

Not only that, but at the time I had just started a new and exciting job. Frustratingly, I was pulled away for nearly three weeks.

Jury service is a necessary but painful duty. It is also economically damaging. We drag people (mainly from the private sector) away from their work. This can be particularly troubling for small businesses and start-ups; where the loss of a key person can essentially shut down the entire operation. Indeed there have been instances where jury service (which can last months) has led to the closure of small companies.

The good news is, there is a simple answer. With record levels of worklessness among working age people, why not make those claiming benefits first in line for jury service?

This has many economic advantages. Most obviously, it avoids pulling productive workers out of the economy. And it saves the government money. The state has to compensate workers for lost wages during jury service. But if someone is on benefits, nothing extra has to be paid.

Thirdly, the potential for endless rounds of jury service would encourage anyone who could do so to get back to work, reducing the explosion in worklessness.

And there is another advantage to jury service for the workless. Long term benefits that leave people out of work invariably make those people sicker. That is because they lose social contact, self-esteem, confidence and physical activity. All these basic things are vital for good health. Lying in bed home alone makes people sick, overweight and depressed very quickly. From then on, it is much more difficult to ever get them back into work; and much more likely they will need ever more NHS and social care services. This is tragically one of the key reasons why our sickness bill is inexorably rising.

But jury service would ensure claimants got up in the morning, dressed smartly, got out of the house, interacted socially and performed a valuable social service, all while exercising their bodies and their brains. It may be unpleasant work, but it is much more likely to keep claimants healthier than staying at home. And because you can perform jury service sat in a chair, this can even apply to those who are disabled.

Prioritising jury service for benefits claimants is an easy hack that grows the economy, helps small businesses, saves the government money, and cuts benefits claimants. Right now, we need some quick and popular wins like this.

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