GamCare: Successes, plans and aspirations

GamShare Issue 4, Autumn 2010

GamCare SignpostAt the recent GamCare Conference we not only reflected on GamCare’s successes in the last year, but also looked at how GamCare planned to develop its services to meet new challenges. Here CEO Andy McLellan sets out GamCare’s vision and plans for the future.

What is GamCare’s vision?

Our vision is very clear: we want to promote a responsible approach to gambling, and to help those harmed by gambling. This means we are in the business of education and prevention, as well as treatment. To do this we have set ourselves some key objectives:

  • to deliver an effective, high quality, impartial HelpLine and responsive treatment service throughout Britain,
  • to help industry and regulators prevent problem gambling, to develop policy and best practice in treatment, prevention and education,
  • to run GamCare efficiently and effectively.

What do you see as the future for GamCare?

The gambling world is changing very quickly and we have to move with it. Our youth strategy Beating the Odds shows what needs to be done for 12-18 year olds – and we have started tackling it. Identifying issues at an early stage can prevent potentially devastating problems later in life. We want to make more use of our first contacts with callers, introducing new and early interventions for those for whom counselling is not a practical or sensible option. As technology opens up new ways to communicate, and to help, we are taking advantage of these opportunities in implementing our strategy. We are also innovating online prevention measures through our partnership with Salford University. This is an example of GamCare exploring new sources of funding and partnership, to make industry funding go further.

How do you plan to deliver this?

We have 13 years’ experience to draw on, an unrivalled mix of expert and experienced Trustees, and professional, trained and respected staff with experience in clinical work, strategy, management, industry, government and research. Our focus is always the client. GamCare runs the national HelpLine and NetLine, along with other online services, providing problem gamblers with a source of instant, confidential and impartial support. In 2009/10 we answered over 35,000 calls, nearly 100 a day. We can provide face to face counselling for 68% of the population of Great Britain, either  directly or through our partners,  and our online counselling is available to anyone, wherever they are.  We provided counselling to nearly 2100 clients in 2009/10 – that’s a quarter more than in 2008/9. And it works - 70% of our gambling clients are no longer problem gamblers after treatment. However, ensuring those that need it get treatment remains a challenge.

As well as providing treatment we are actively engaged in preventing problem gambling, through awareness and education. We train, advise and certificate gambling operators in social responsibility and player protection: GamCare certified 34 operators (land-based and remote) last year. Regulators in other countries and jurisdictions come to us for advice, which helps to protect those gambling online in the UK as most websites are licensed outside Britain. Our international reputation also extends to treatment providers in other countries as we are frequently asked to advise on the development of services abroad.

We also use our industry funding to attract additional income – we raised over £250,000 last year to add to our £2.46 million from the industry.

How do you know you are on the right path?

Everything we do is based on evidence, research and our own frontline experience, and we are not afraid to learn from others – the last thing we want to do is waste money by reinventing the wheel. We are constantly monitoring, evaluating and developing all of our programmes. We are in touch with service providers and academics around the world and regularly ask our users what they think of our services. In 2009/10 94% of callers rated our service very good or excellent.

What do you need to deliver this future?

The main thing we need is funding certainty, to plan for at least the next three years. This was the objective of the Gambling Commission’s review three years ago, and we hope it will at last be a reality in 2011/12. With the limited funds available – and we recognise the difficulties the industry is facing, and congratulate them on achieving their £5 million fundraising target last year -  co-operation between agencies must be the way forward rather than wasteful competition.

With guaranteed, index-linked funding at £3m a year for 3 years, we could continue to deliver, and enhance, the national HelpLine, increase availability of treatment to 95% of the population, develop and deliver education and treatment programmes for 12-18 year olds, and train and support frontline agencies, including the NHS. Through partnerships, grants, donations and trading we could turn that £3m into more than £3.5m.

In short, with guaranteed funding, we could plan and deliver a coherent, affordable and effective prevention and treatment programme across the whole of Great Britain.

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