A couple of weeks ago the UK Gambling Commission launched their new National Strategy to Reduce Gambling Harms. YGAM are fortunate to sit on the Advisory Board for Safer Gambling (ABSG) Advisory Group alongside colleagues from other registered charities, gambling industry trade bodies, and members of the Safer Gambling team from the Commission themselves. Through the Advisory Group, separate stakeholder meetings, and in our own formal submission to the consultation we have contributed to the new national strategy and are very much looking forward to contributing to its delivery. The overall aim and two strategic priorities have clear support from YGAM and our board of trustees.
Will the new strategy from the Gambling Commission be a further enabler for YGAM?
This is a question that I get asked a lot, followed by ‘how are the Gambling Commission supporting the social purpose of YGAM?’. We do indeed feel the new strategy will be an enabler and provide the framework that all those interested in contributing can all get behind. However, there is a lot of work already happening and I do worry that all this effort is not being recognised (or captured) in a single place, so we very much hope the new strategy will help to address this. It will also be helpful to see the implementation plan, with the specific deliverables, that will underpin and evidence delivery, which we hope to contribute to. As ever, YGAM are keen to ensure all our collaborative work contributes particularly to the ‘universal’ and ‘selective measures’ of the prevention and education strategic priority, as happened with the previous (then RGSB) national strategy.
Five-years of insight
2019 is a special year for YGAM, as we celebrate our fifth anniversary in September. The past five years have absolutely flown by and have been filled with mixed emotions. However, we have maintained our absolute focus to create, pilot, accredit, evaluate, deliver and then scale education to reduce gambling or gaming related harms. We do this via cross-curricular training workshops to upskill practitioners and give them the tools and resources to deliver a programme that builds digital resilience in young people.
Our board of trustees made an early decision to work with the gambling sector and I am grateful to those companies who have chosen to come on the journey with us (several operators now donate to YGAM annually). These donations have enabled YGAM to deliver our two principle products; (i) Practitioner workshops, as mentioned above, but also (ii) Student and University Engagement, where we employ university students and train them to embed our programme across campus and the local community. The last twelve months have been interesting as we are starting to extend our educational offering to junior schools, and we are also developing our parent offering as many schools are asking us to help them equip parents with the knowledge and tools to keep children safe on-line. We will formally launch these two new elements to the YGAM programme in September.
In addition, our team whom I am incredibly grateful to have worked tirelessly with, to increase our reach. Last year we reached 55,954 young people, through 350 trained practitioners / partner organisations. This year we are moving towards reaching c153,600 young people through c960 trained practitioners / partner organisations. In addition, we are on-track to reach out to c21,000 students through our Student and University Engagement work; this is encouraging progress.
YGAM Prevention and Education Strategy
Three weeks ago, at the YGAM Parliamentary Symposium we published our three-year prevention and education strategy. In summary, YGAM has an aspiration, with our partners, to reach a minimum of seven million young people over the next four years. Our published strategy shows the road map on how we will reach almost two million young people by ourselves, but with strong collaboration and additional resource, we are hopeful that we will be able to exceed our strategy parameters in an organised, impactful and structed manner.
Recognition, Impact and Evaluation
YGAM was founded to fill an important (and at the time unfilled) gap around minimising gambling or gaming behavioural addictions among young people. Given our world is becoming more digitalised, there is potential that YGAM will be a longstanding charity in this space, as the impact on mental health and digital addictions become more understood so taking a long-term approach to evaluation is critical, if we are to remain relevant and effective.
YGAM’s sole purpose is framed around education and so we wanted to ensure we are relevant to professionals working in this space primarily. In the early days of content creation we felt it was important to develop educational materials that would (i) land well and resonate with teaching professionals; compelling, encouraging and inspiring them and (ii) be consistently evaluated, updated and accredited with awarding or quality-assurance partners that teaching professionals trusted.
YGAM was the first charity in the UK to gain the PSHE Association quality-mark for such educational materials, which was closely followed by becoming a Customised Accreditation Centre with the awarding body ASDAN. It took YGAM almost a year to achieve PSHE and ASDAN recognition as we wanted to ensure we were approaching this sensitive topic in the most appropriate way, delivering the highest quality possible and to minimise any unintended consequences from this type of education.
The charity was then fortunate enough to undergo an almost year-long academic evaluation with City, University of London to look at how practitioners and teaching professionals used our educational resources and their relevance within the national curriculum. We also evaluated the attitudes, thinking and behaviours of practitioners who attended YGAM workshops. This evaluation was published at the YGAM Symposium in 2017.
Based on the consistent feedback from delegates at workshops, in 2017 / 18 we agreed to take the level of quality-assurance and external scrutiny higher by working in collaboration with the global awarding body Pearson (formally Edexcel). We wanted to benefit from their experience and insight around lasting and impactful education and we started the journey to become a Pearson Assured provider, and Pearson approved educational centre. Both were achieved and again over the period of almost a year we re-opened our educational resources, delivery models, quality-assurance and impact assessment.
YGAM also became an accredited Investor in People employer 2018 and we have received robust scrutiny from the Charity Commission, being a newly registered charity, which was a positive experience and has helped us to ensure our governance is the best it can be.
The scrutiny doesn’t stop there, nor does our quest for excellence in this space. Over the past four months we have been working with City & Guilds as we seek to achieve their Quality Assurance mark and become a City & Guilds approved educational centre. We are hoping to achieve this milestone in the coming couple of months. We do not know of any other programme globally with Pearson and City & Guilds Assurance, and approved centre status (or equivalent). For a charity of our size, it is remarkable considering it is usually large colleges, national training providers and universities that, in the main, manage to achieve such a standard. For YGAM this will hopefully ensure our relevance in the education market and evidence the robust approach and impact of our delivery. In addition to this, we are also working with a university to undertake two further impact assessments. The first will be reported at our next upcoming Parliamentary Symposium in the autumn, which will look at emerging young people’s attitudes, thinking and behaviours and how our programme might change these. This will then be followed by a second large scale, academic national evaluation of impact, with controlled groups, so our impact can be compared on different populations. We hope we can work with c100 partner organisations to get large scale statistically relevant data of population reach programmes, with a controlled group of equal size.
This finally brings me on to the framework to understand gambling harms experienced by children and young people published by the Gambling Commission last week – an approach we are strong supporters of. We are looking forward to working with the Commission to understand how we can incorporate this framework into the current YGAM evaluation process, so we can work collaboratively, sharing data and insight.