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Richest should give more to charity, says Dragons’ Den star


Dragons’ Den’s Deborah Meaden is calling for the UK’s wealthiest to do more to support those struggling in the cost of living crisis.

Speaking at the launch of the final report for the Law Family Commission on Civil Society at London’s County Hall yesterday (26 January), Meaden said that among the nation’s highest earners there was “definitely capacity there to fill the gap” in charity funding caused by the economic downturn.

She said:

“With the cost of living crisis, businesses can give more and actually private individuals can give more.


“The reality is that high-net-worth individuals, the wealthiest people at the top end of the scale, have seen their earnings grow by around 10% in recent years, but they have been reducing the amount they are giving. There is definitely capacity there to fill that gap.”

Recent research by Pro Bono Economics in partnership with Nottingham Trent University’s National VCSE Data and Insights Observatory, showed seven in 10 (71%) charities across the UK experienced an increase in demand in the three months to November 2022 and the same number expected demand to increase over the coming three months. Nearly half (49%) expected demand to exceed their ability to meet it and 19% expected to fall significantly short.

At the same time, research for the Commission found that typical donations from the UK’s top 1% of earners dropped by 21% in real terms between 2011/12 and 2018/19, despite the typical annual income among this group rising by 10% over the same period.

Meaden made a keynote speech at the Commission final report launch alongside former Cabinet Secretary Lord Gus O’Donnell, the Commission’s chair, as well as Civil Society Minister Stuart Andrew.

As part of her speech, she also recognised that there is a willingness and a desire among businesses to support charities’ work, but said that the business sector as a whole “lack a strategy” when it comes to working with them.

She said:

“I see a willingness and a desire in businesses to support this really important work, but a disparity – not really understanding how they can have the most impact.


“For me, it’s important that businesses build a longer-term relationship with charities and have an understanding of the picture locally, regionally and nationally. So then you get a map that says, ‘This is how businesses can properly impact long-term’.


“Business needs charities. Business wants to make an impact but doesn’t have the skills and doesn’t have the direct contact that these charities do have. So charities sometimes need to be reminded they have got something businesses need.


“But it does lack a strategy and without strategy, it’s just going to be, ‘We’ll give something to you and something to you’, as opposed to saying, ‘This is the overall impact we are going to have.’”

Meaden is part of a growing group of wealthy individuals calling for more action from the wealthiest in society as well as from governments to do more to help others. A group of 200 millionaires recently wrote an open letter to political leaders at Davos calling for the ultra rich to be taxed more.  

In the letter, the cosignatories drew attention to the ‘age of extremes’ we are living in with ‘Rising poverty and widening wealth inequality; the rise of anti-democratic nationalism; extreme weather and ecological decline; deep vulnerabilities in our shared social systems; and the shrinking opportunity for billions of ordinary people to earn a livable wage.”

It is time, they urged, to “tackle extreme wealth; now is the time to tax the ultra rich.”

“There’s only so much stress any society can take, only so many times mothers and fathers will watch their children go hungry while the ultra rich contemplate their growing wealth. The cost of action is much cheaper than the cost of inaction – it’s time to get on with the job.”

Oxfam is also calling for the super-rich to be taxed more. Its recent research, Survival of the Richest, highlights how extreme wealth and extreme poverty have increased simultaneously for the first time in 25 years. It shows that the richest 1% are getting an ever-greater share of the world’s resources, while having already captured around half of all new wealth during the past decade. In the two years up to December 2021, the 1% took almost two-thirds (63%) of the $42 trillion (£34 trillion) of new wealth created. In the UK, the richest 1% hold more wealth than 70% of Britons.

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