The grotesque inequalities which scar UK society were brought into sharp focus for me yesterday and jolted me into writing about a subject which has concerned me for many years.
While surfing the internet for news stories I came across a Social Bite advert encouraging folk to buy a homeless person a Christmas dinner for £5. It is a very laudable project as are the hundreds of other schemes and organisations who work damn hard and give up valuable time and effort to try and alleviate a 21st Century shame which is rising numbers of homeless children, adults and rough sleepers reduced to sleeping on the streets or shifting from refuge to hostel in search of stability amidst plenty.
Homelessness Is a Disgrace in the Rich UK
The UK is one of the richest societies on the planet yet according to the widely respected housing charity, Shelter, 280,000 homeless people will be rough sleeping, or living in temporary housing and hostels in England on Christmas Day – about one in every 200 of the total population https://england.shelter.org.uk/. London is the homeless capital of the UK but all major cities in England and in each of the constituent nations have their share of the problem. If the political will existed it is a problem which could be solved in months not years. A holistic and joined up approach which involved real term investment in new house building, drug and addiction care and targeted long term support packages with dedicated staff and personal budgeting and income maximising programmes could all but eradicate the homelessness and rough sleeping scar which shames us as a society.
Make no mistake each of us are potential victims of homelessness. A job loss, a relationship breakdown, a drug, alcohol or gambling addiction, a bereavement crisis, a loss of physical or mental health. Any one or a combination of those problems could strike any of us and begin a spiral into anxiety, despair, desperation and lead to homelessness or rough sleeping. The sage advice never to judge anyone until you have walked a few miles in their shoes is a guiding life principle particularly applicable in relation to homeless families and rough sleeping citizens.
Do What You Can To Support Those Supporting the Homeless
If you can support Shelter or any of the other valiant organisations and charities working with and for the homeless and rough sleepers please do so. I have good friends with huge hearts who run vital organisations like Loaves and Fishes to help feed and clothe the homeless while Scotland’s Winter Project has recently been established to provide hot food to rough sleepers directly in Glasgow and West Central Scotland during the difficult hours of 10pm to 3am. All initiatives and efforts by those with a social conscience and desire to help fellow human beings and children are worthy of support. The various Christmas toy appeals are also laudable and the one run by Spirit Aid merits a mention.
One Boss Paid Obscene Wage of £323 Million
However here is the rub. The Social Bite appeal I mentioned above was wedged into an article which appeared on The London Economic, a digital newspaper, regarding the annual wage packet of the co-founder of the betting company Bet365. The co-founder of that company, Denise Coates, awarded herself an obscene salary of £277 million and a bonus payment from dividends of another £45 million. One individual, a 52 year old woman who devised the online betting platform to fill a gap in the market in 2000, paid herself £323 million in the financial year 1st April 2018 to 31st March 2019.
She was already Britain’s highest paid boss in 2017-18 when she paid herself a basic salary of £220 million but while most workers struggle for a few hundred pounds more each year Ms Coates increased her annual remuneration by £57 million. I don’t care how hard she works, how clever she is or how much her company donates to charity I find such a salary reward to be hideous. This is not a personal attack on her. She may be a very nice person. However neither she nor any other boss is worth £323 million a year. It is simply repulsive in a society with 14 million in poverty, 9 million workers officially low paid and 280,000 homeless citizens that we are paying bosses consistently several hundred millions a year. The fact the article in question had the Social Bite advert inserted in-between simply underlined the ugly and deeply distorted society we live in.
Is Boss of Bet365 Really Worth 8,500 Nurses?
I looked up nursing salaries. The information was instructive:
- Fully qualified nurses start on salaries of £24,214 rising to £30,112 on Band 5 of the NHS Agenda for Change pay rates. Salaries in London attract a high-cost area supplement.
- With experience, in positions such as nurse team leader on Band 6, salaries progress to £30,401 to £37,267.
- At more senior levels such as nurse advanced, modern matron and nurse consultant (Bands 7 to 8c), salaries range from £37,570 to £72,597.
A fully trained long term Band 6 nurse earns less than £38,000 per annum but the boss of a gambling company which specialises in enticing ordinary folk to risk what little money they have in a hopeless pursuit of riches earns the equivalent of 8,500 nurses. Those dedicated to caring for others and working under considerable stress and strain in our underfunded and hard pressed NHS earn a pittance for their labour compared to fat cat bosses like Ms Coates. I find that fact unedifying.