After a challenging year dominated by the coronavirus pandemic, we are entering a pivotal period for everyone connected to the gambling industry including those involved in the research, education and treatment sector. The Gambling Act Review is a once in a generation opportunity to revise policy and ensure the RET (Research, Education, Treatment) system works for the people it supports.
As a charity sector and community, we are extremely rich with passionate, talented individuals and innovative thinking. Our network is a diverse mix of experienced professionals, educators, clinicians, researchers, specialists and importantly individuals who provide a unique insight from their lived experience of gaming and gambling-related harms.
It is really encouraging to see the issue of gaming and gambling harms being highlighted by more journalists and politicians in recent years. This is part of a collective effort to raise awareness of gaming and gambling disorder and importantly the impact it can have on things such as mental health, relationships, and affected others. The debate is often insightful, reasonable, and full of impassioned opinions related to regulation, research, education and treatment. It is vital we listen to and respect the wide spectrum of views and perspectives. By welcoming more ideas into the discussion, we will surely ensure that decisions are better informed.
The calls for the review to be guided by evidence and facts is quite rightly loud from all sides of the debate. At YGAM, we’re very open to feedback and respectful conversation but it’s also important for us to address some of the misrepresentations.
We are extremely proud to be delivering the Young People’s Gambling Harm Prevention Programme in partnership with the team at GamCare. This is a £10million programme funded by members of the Betting and Gaming Council, with the RET funding being distributed to YGAM and GamCare via the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF). This ensures an additional level of due diligence from CAF and further underlines its independence. YGAM will receive £2.9 million for our delivery role as detailed in the programme plan. The debate around how much and where financial support is directed is important so let’s ensure it is represented accurately.
Our programmes are focused on increasing understanding of the risks associated to gaming and gambling, harm prevention and the safeguarding measures that could be actioned to support a person. Many of our team are teachers and as education professionals, we find any challenge to our programme’s independence insulting to the dedicated teachers, parents and individuals with lived experience who deliver our programmes with passion. Similarly, to other education programmes delivered to young people, we work incredibly hard with external experts to ensure our work is independently assessed and age appropriate. Gaming and gambling now feature on the PSHE Programme of Study in England and we match our resources to the curriculum specifications. Our programme is also mapped to the four purposes of the Welsh curriculum and a selection of our resources are available in the Welsh language for schools in that country.
Since YGAM’s inception we have had a relentless focus on independent evaluation and securing external accreditations for our work. There is robust evidence to demonstrate our programmes are impactful in supporting our social purpose. As an organisation, we continue to invest a substantial amount of time and resource into our evaluations and impact reporting. In the Summer of 2019, we commissioned the National Council for Voluntary Organisations, Charities Evaluation Services (NCVO CES) to undertake an independent external evaluation looking at the impact of our work on practitioners and young people. This was in addition to the City University of London academic evaluation we commissioned two years previously. The latest independent impact evaluation of our resources found:
Strong evidence that young people understand gaming and gambling-related harms including the risks and triggers.
Strong evidence that young people are aware of the resources that they can turn to for help and support.
Strong evidence that young people feel confident to discuss gaming and gambling-related harms with their peers and others.
Strong evidence that young people have financial knowledge in relation to gaming and gambling.
In addition to this, teachers and youth workers evidence the impact of our programmes by collating feedback from the young people they deliver our resources to. The latest information we received revealed:
96% agreed that they understood how gaming and gambling harm can impact themselves and others as a result of a YGAM session versus 26% pre-session.
98% of the young people we delivered to felt more able to make informed choices as a result of a YGAM session.
96% agreed that they understood the financial risks of gaming and gambling as a result of a YGAM session versus 44% pre-session.
All of the YGAM resources, training and education programmes have been independently scrutinised, challenged, evaluated and quality marked by a wide range of organisations including City University of London; Pearson; City & Guilds; University of East London; National Council for Voluntary Organisations, Charities Evaluation Service; Clearview Research; The Charity Commission. A critical part of all of these evaluations is being able to demonstrate clear independence and show evidenced-based approaches.
To reduce gambling harms, the treatment services, prevention programmes and much-needed research projects must be appropriately resourced. It is commonplace within the third sector that while funders may fund and support specific pieces of work, at no point do funders have any influence over the programme content. It is crucial that the work of organisations involved in the RET system is completely independent from the industry and we are always happy to have a conversation to address any questions. YGAM is led by a Board of Trustees who are all independent of the gambling industry and who all give their time voluntarily. Within our tight governance structures, we also have a Finance, Audit & Risk Committee who scrutinise all our donations and support our Executive Team to ensure that at no time is our independence compromised. We stick to our charitable objectives and vision; inform, educate and safeguard, and whilst we are not a campaigning organisation, we do aim to enhance the quality of discussion and awareness.
We’re always willing to share and listen to ideas, working collaboratively in the same space with the common goal of safeguarding future generations against harms. There are lots of talented people and organisations working tirelessly to help prevent harm through education and we all have so much to offer. It is a positive that more organisations are being established and something we should all welcome. No one organisation can claim to know all the answers. Whilst we should always encourage scrutiny, we must avoid misrepresentations intended to discredit the efforts of others working in this space.
Let’s support, share expertise, collaborate where possible and concentrate on giving young people the essential education they need to prevent gaming and gambling harms.
YGAM Operations Director and former teacher.