When gambling harms and a community wants to help

Written by: Hilda Campbell, co authored by the voices of lived experience, COPE Scotland

Published: 27/05/2020

The beginning of a new joint effort to help reduce gambling harms for individuals, families, and communities.

There was a time we didn’t speak about suicide, now we have thousands of suicide prevention champions all over the UK, ready, willing, and able to step forward and offer a suicide first aid to someone considering taking their own life. There was a time when we didn’t talk about abuse, and the impact of trauma on children. Now we have awareness of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and work to establish trauma informed communities and champions who have attended the Solihull approach training in supporting emotional health and wellbeing in early years through to adulthood. There was a time when we didn’t focus as much as we should on alcohol harms, there are now recovery communities and more people trained in alcohol, brief intervention. Things are improving. However, there are still some harms which we need to do more to raise awareness of, and here is why.

The following three stories were shared by a social reporter working with COPE Scotland, who recognising the additional challenges COVID19 may bring, wanted to understand more what they could do to help and who they could work with to make a difference.

‘’I was in a taxi going to an event when the taxi driver started telling me he had been driving to go and drive off a bridge to try and to end his life. He opened up to me and told me this was because he had been thrown out by his wife due to having gambled everything away online. His house was being repossessed due to the debt he had rung up. He had lost everything. His wife had moved back in with her parents along with their children. The gambling had not only affected him and his life but also the lives of his wife and children.‘’

‘’My dad has been playing on an app and spent all his ESA last week. I have now logged on and put a spending limit on monthly. Just because he is bored and lonely. He isn’t good at reading and writing so didn’t know how to put money back in his bank, he tried to add 20 and added 200 – all gone. A spending cap was easy to do but it can be changed monthly unfortunately, so he could log on today and in 30 days the cap is changed to what he puts it to. He had to add confirmation of who he was so uploaded a photo of his bank statement and his passport and, until he did that, he couldn’t take money out. It took 3 days for the confirmation of that so if he spends and wins, he can now take the money out. I, like my dad feel so lonely at times ‘’

‘’This person told me that there had been no limit on the site that her mum had been on until she put it on, after her mum losing all her money in her bank account. She was worried that her mum would just alter the limit she put on it.’’

These 3 stories the social reporter was allowed to share give some examples of the harm of uncontrolled gambling, the harm when gambling is used as an unhelpful coping strategy and the challenge family members may find they face as a result of the gambling habits of someone they love, or, who has control of their finances.

Just like champions for suicide awareness, trauma and recovery for drugs and alcohol, we need a new form of champion who wants to raise awareness of gambling harms, what people can do themselves to reduce risk and who they can speak to when things have began to spiral out of control.

We are delighted at work going on at a city and national level and have begun to make links with the Health and Social Care Alliance Scotland who are keen to engage people with lived experience on issues of gambling harms especially during lockdown as part of Scotland Reducing Gambling Harms Programme, and work being done in Glasgow through the ScotPHN’s Glasgow Gambling Harms Group. Councillor Annette Christie argues that it is time to take a public health approach to reducing gambling harms.

We are at the beginning of a new joint effort to help reduce gambling harms for individuals, families, and communities.

So far, we have:

  • Co designed a tips sheet to raise awareness of gambling harms with the voices of lived experience and professionals
  • Co designed a series of social media messages
  • Made links with Gamcare around targeting one hour awareness raising workshops to specific partner groups to help build into other work and add addressing gambling harms to local agendas such as suicide awareness, trauma informed work and recovery
  • Through ‘Whit’s Happening’, a local info mag we aim to raise awareness of gambling harms and where helps is available as well as developments in how to have a community safe from gambling harms
  • We have drafted a communication strategy and action plan for consideration by other partners to explore how we build connections and compliment pieces of work
  • We have floated the idea of community champions in gambling harms and are exploring how we take this forward with the local community
  • We have designed a fun way to have ‘house parties’ even if virtual for now, which creates safe spaces for people to talk about gambling harms, to help raise awareness, reduce stigma, prevent harm and link to support where something more formal is needed
  • We are also working with Gamcare to explore uptake of sessions locally and what else we can do to promote awareness
  • Recognising Gambling as an unhelpful coping strategy to stress and loneliness with partners and the community we seek to explore what else can be done to help people feel more connected and cope with life challenges in healthier ways
  • This is only a beginning…

Gambling harms are an inequality issue and one which collectively we can do something about, its time on so many levels that we think of the many, not the few.

In gambling the many must lose in order that the few may win.” George Bernard Shaw.

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COPE Scotland

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