GamCare is the leading national provider of information, advice, support and treatment for anyone affected by problem gambling. The charity moved into office space at CAN Mezzanine, Old Street last year.
Head of Marketing and Communications Catherine Sweet said, “We work with any type of gambling, anything that has become problematic for a person – we look at what gambling may be taking away from someone. It might not be about debt, it might be about family relationships breaking down or being at risk of losing a job because they’re so preoccupied with gambling.
"More often than not, the callers that we speak to on our HelpLine are gambling on more than one activity because the compulsion is so strong.”
GamCare provide free support via the National Gambling HelpLine and NetLine, an online forum and chatrooms, plus free treatment and counselling interventions. As well as helping individuals work towards their goals, which are usually to stop gambling completely, we help them understand their compulsion better so they can deal with triggers differently.
“We offer a lot more group therapy than we used to because the peer support can be an integral part of recovery, both face to face and online. As well as group therapy, peers can support one another through our forum and live chatrooms. Our new group courses work well as they’re more structured around particular topics, for instance, money management, how to deal with difficult situations and what could trigger potentially compulsive behaviour.
"Over time you will lose more than you win, otherwise gambling companies wouldn’t make a profit. We want to ensure that people make informed decisions so that if they do gamble, it doesn’t harm them.”
“Some of our HelpLine Advisors are therapists in their own right and some are training to become therapists, but it’s not essential. We provide comprehensive training and we’re also accredited by the Helplines Partnership. We are able to induct Advisers in the specialist knowledge around problem gambling.”
One of GamCare’s key education initiatives is its Youth Outreach Programme which runs monthly training for anyone working with young people as well as directly providing workshops for young people.
A recent report from the Gambling Commission focusing on 11-15-year olds found that a greater percentage of young people are gambling than they are drinking, smoking and taking drugs.
“A 16-year-old can play the lottery or buy a scratch card, but the Gambling Commission are reviewing that license in the next few years to potentially raise that price point. We work with 12-18-year olds from when they are technically too young to do most forms of gambling but to make sure they’re educated on what gambling is and why it can be risky, so that later on they can make a more informed choice and it hopefully doesn’t become problematic for them."
"The biggest takeaway from our interactive sessions for young people is that gambling is not a way to make money."
GamCare also offer training to the gambling industry on how to recognise signs from their customers which indicate compulsion or addiction. It also carries out audits of businesses to highlight where they could strengthen player protection controls.
"We are working on educating the industry on preventing problems developing, for instance, reviewing the design of games. Some 'free-to-play' games normalise the idea of gambling so that when players stake money, it just seems like another game with no risk.
“We have also just launched a new course in partnership with St Mungo’s West London Recovery College which is specifically aimed at helping people to address the problem earlier so that the harms don't escalate, particularly regarding homelessness. For the people that we deal with, the financial aspect of addiction or compulsion is unique because there are potentially large sums of money being lost in a short space of time, and that can lead to people losing their jobs, their homes, their families. We see a lot of people affected by homelessness so our partnership with St Mungo's is an important pilot and hopefully one that we can scale up.
"Our biggest challenge is diversifying our income and finding new funding streams for work that targets particular vulnerable groups. We want to build outreach programmes tailored to these groups, so we are looking for funders to contribute to that on a longer term basis.
"The National Gambling HelpLine and our treatment services is funded by GambleAware, through gathering voluntary donations of 0.1% of the profit that gambling companies make each year. Not every company contributes but the government is investigating whether it should be levied which would make that funding source much more sustainable."
“We’d been looking for new premises for a while and it became imperative that we move as our building was being repurposed. Our Chief Executive visited CAN sites and really liked the open plan, collaborative ethos. Previously we had a lot of space but we were all in individual offices, so we were looking to encourage people to open up and share ideas. The mix of organisations in the building was attractive too.
“Our services users often tell us that they wouldn’t be alive if it wasn’t for us.”
“Problem gambling has a higher suicide rate than most other addictions, particularly in the UK and it disproportionally affects men. We get a lot of feedback from our service users to say, ‘Thank you, I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for you.’”