Following on from Safer Gambling Week, Alexa Roseblade, head of children and young people at GamCare, highlights the need for year-round education of gambling risks
Almost all gambling is illegal for under 18s in the UK, yet the Gambling Commission’s 2022 Young People and Gambling Survey found that 0.9% were currently being harmed by gambling and a further 2.4% were at risk of harm.
There is no safe way for someone who is under 18 to gamble, but we know young people are making bets with friends, playing games online that mimic gambling activity and engaging with emerging trends like cryptocurrencies.
Equipping young people with unbiased, non-judgemental facts around gambling is undoubtedly one of the key ways we can safeguard the next generation from harm. As Safer Gambling Week came around once again, it’s important we remind ourselves of the vital need to continue raising this awareness of gambling-related harms for young people in the UK and the unique and novel ways young people are engaging in gambling-like activities.
For over 25 years, GamCare has provided information, advice and support for young people and has led the way since 2015 in providing interactive and engaging educational workshops for young people.
Unlike other harms such as alcohol or drug abuse, gambling has not been afforded the same spotlight in both the public eye and educational settings. Through our youth work, we aim to change that.
We raise awareness of the potential harms with policymakers, parents and professionals working with young people. Our core objective is to reach young people directly, offering them age-appropriate information and support.
Our current youth programme extends beyond workshop delivery to young people, encompassing a comprehensive educational, participatory and supportive package tailored to our audience’s needs. After our direct delivery sessions, there was increased awareness of advertising, incentives to gamble and blurred lines between gaming and gambling which helped change mindsets regarding risks.
We run the UK’s only online support service for young people aged 11-18, as well as a weekly UK-wide participation board. We also engage with professionals and organisations delivering gambling-related harms support and education through our leading role in the English Gambling Education Hub.
Our education programme, The Young People’s Gambling Harm Prevention Programme, has been running since April 2020 and we are delighted to announce that we have directly delivered workshops to over 100,000 young people to help inform the next generation about gambling-related harms and where to seek support should they need it.
Through our Youth Advisory Board and meeting young people every day, GamCare is able to gain real-time insights from young people about how gambling affects them. This gives us a unique ability to shape our discussions and ensure our work meets the needs of today’s young people.
We don’t shy away from any topics, discussing how the gambling industry makes money, how the industry uses marketing and advertising to attract new players, how to recognise the signs of gambling harm and also which support services are available to help young people if they need it – whether that’s for themselves or if they’re being affected by someone else’s gambling. We also touch on many of the activities that are not currently regulated as gambling, such as loot boxes, gaming, cryptocurrency and the normalisation of gambling in apps like fast fashion brands.
The 25,000 professionals we have trained – from schools, universities, youth sports organisations and more – all play an invaluable role in identifying gambling-related harms among young people and signposting them to services like our Young People’s Service, which received over 100 referrals last year. Without the support, care and professional curiosity of these professionals GamCare wouldn’t be able to support as many young people as we do.
This important work would not be possible without the collaboration of incredible partners in the gambling-harms space, including Aquarius, Ara, Beacon Counselling Trust and NECA. Each organisation brings with them a wealth of skills from across a range of connected sectors, as well as specialist regional knowledge and relationships. We also collaborate closely with Ygam on a range of our programmes, ensuring those who need information and support receive a smooth and seamless service.
Now is a time of change for third-sector organisations working in gambling support. It’s vital that throughout these changes, the focus on those who need this support is not lost. Young people are typically early adopters of change, technology and anything new. As such, the harms they face are ever-changing so it is essential we are able to build on the momentum we have achieved over the past four years and play our part in preventing future harms.
Alexa Roseblade is head of children and young people at GamCare.