Hosting its eighth ‘Annual Conference’ online, GambleAware welcomed its broadest set of stakeholders as it continues to work within public policy, national health, education, criminal justice and the gambling sector to collaborate on the ‘treatment of gambling harms’.
Opening the conference’s schedule, GambleAware Chair Kate Lampard (CBE) acknowledged that – similar to many charitable and public organisations – 2020 had been a year of drastic adjustments for the gambling harm prevention charity.
As treatment teams dealt with victims in isolation, GambleAware’s resources and capabilities were tested to their absolute limits as the charity sought to tackle the unique psychological and behavioural complexities of individuals at risk of gambling harms.
Coping with 2020’s unprecedented challenges helped Lampard and GambleAware’s leadership to settle on the conference’s theme: ‘Treatment of gambling harms – collaborating on a long-term plan’.
Though GambleAware has significantly expanded its nationwide network of support organisations to combat gambling addiction and its risks, Lampard noted concerns regarding the “pathways to treatment remained unavailable for many”.
Observing the tragic events of 2020, Lampard remarked that as a mental health professional, “Covid brought home the reality of economic divides within Britain as a barrier to people receiving treatment”.
She added that treatment of gambling addiction amplified the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) addiction concerns that “inequality has become a challenge in developing a whole system approach”.
Despite the impact of high coverage campaigns, which were supported by public and private institutions, Lampard said that “1-in-2 sufferers of gambling harm still refuse to access support”.
The effective treatment of gambling harms, she said, continues to require support from the broadest set of stakeholders to break down its complex social stigmas – “be it faith group leaders recognising suffers within a community, social care workers or prison guards”.
Closing her statement, Lampard expressed her confidence in GambleAware and its national service being led by Zoë Osmond through a further transitional period.
She added that the executive had already proven her leadership capacity after securing private and public sector partnerships and placing gambling harm education at the forefront of the national health agenda.
Alex Norris, Shadow Minister for Public Health, welcomed Lampard’s comments on inequality impacting gambling harm treatment support.
The Labour MP for Nottingham North responded: “GambleAware’s needs gap analysis on problem gambling had been a real eye-opener for members of parliament, driving home the importance of tackling complex social issues.”
As an ‘MP and punter’, Norris acknowledged that “gambling reforms will be one of the most challenging policy areas for any government” as it continues to deal with the various challenges of regulating the sector.
“There is a real pressure to get this right. I accept the big picture approach in which we recognise that half of the adult population has gambled,” the MP said. “But we have to provide a real focus on those 300,000 at-risk players making sure that they have direct access to the best treatment possible.”
Norris relayed heightened concerns on stigmas and reluctance to admit harms in behaviours which are most prominent amongst young men.
The MP concluded by stating that gambling harm support and recovery could not be attributed to diagnosis and treatment alone, in which the government needed to undertake an honest assessment of social and economic conditions.
Closing his statement, Norris urged stakeholders to not miss the opportunity “to bring a collective firepower of insights and data” to the government’s review of the 2005 Gambling Act, in order to implement a generational change and solve gambling addiction’s social conundrums.