Local politicians have welcomed news that a national education charity has expanded its reach into Dorset.

Simon Hoare, the Member of Parliament for North Dorset, has welcomed the Young Gamers and Gamblers Education Trust (YGAM) to the Dorset area as it continues to expand its reach as part of a £10 million national programme. The MP has written to schools in the area to recommend YGAM’s accredited training, which is provided free to teachers and staff working with young or vulnerable people.

The charity has recently appointed Katherine Sawyer as Education Manager for the South West region, which means YGAM can now provide its free educational workshops and resources to anyone who works with or cares for young people across the region.

Simon Hoare MP, current Chair of the Northern Ireland Affairs Select Committee, said:

“I have personally been briefed on the plans YGAM has for North Dorset and I believe there is a real need for their services to support our young people. Whilst schools have been closed during the lockdown, the amount of time young people have been spending online has increased significantly meaning this work has never been more important.”

He continued: “I want to make sure that collectively we are doing everything we can to ensure future generations of North Dorset and the South West are educated and safeguarded from the potential consequences of gaming and gambling. I encourage anyone who works with young people in North Dorset to work with Katherine and the YGAM team to help reach as many people across the region as possible”

Councillor Nocturin Lacey-Clarke (of the Blandford Forum Ward) has also welcomed YGAM’s operations in Dorset. He said:

“I think what YGAM are trying to do is fantastic and very much needed. I think this is a new issue that is rising, and it’s been exasperated hugely through lockdown – because people haven’t been able to see their usual friends in person, young people have been driven into the online world.”

He continued: “I think what YGAM are doing is something that nobody else is: they’re one of the groups which is actively trying to educate parents on what online gaming actually can be. Telling them things like what Loot Boxes are, and the negative effects that can come from them. I know it’s something I’m aware of, but I’m in a bit of a niche. So to find a charity which is taking it country wide – and Dorset-wide – like YGAM is, is amazing. I hope to work with them more in the future.”

The organisation has recently accelerated a digital transformation of its content to provide 90-minute online workshops, which include information on the signs of harm to look out for and where to find specialist support. In addition, a free booklet of over 60 activities is made available to all attendees.

Katherine Sawyer, YGAMs Education Manager for the South West said “It is fantastic to have the support of Simon who is not only a widely respected member of Parliament but also someone who works tirelessly to support young people in North Dorset. My aim is to train as many practitioners in the region as possible so we make sure that collectively we are doing everything we can to educate and safeguard young people from the potential consequences of gaming and gambling.”

YGAM and GamCare are working in partnership and supported by members of the Betting and Gaming Council (BGC), to deliver the ‘Young People’s Gambling Harm Prevention Programme: Education, Training, Support’ to raise awareness of the risks of potential gaming and gambling related harms.

Councillor Nocturin Lacey-Clarke