Frontline Services Adviser, Keely, shares her experiences on taking calls from people that need help and support on the National Gambling Helpline.
I have been on the helpline now for over two years and I can honestly say that no two calls are ever the same. There are always similarities because mostly, we talk to gamblers who are reaching out for support, or partners, parents and family members who are concerned about someone else’s gambling.
Some callers just need a bit of support and guidance with their gambling. Others are in crisis with no money, no food, families to feed and bills to pay. Some people gamble because they are lonely, bereaved, depressed, bored and for some, it’s the sheer excitement. When a caller gets through, they are met with empathy and compassion. They are given a safe space to talk freely and to get everything out in the open. Quite often, people will use our live chat feature as a way to keep the conversation private. This feature is always useful, especially during lockdown as many people had their privacy compromised.
On occasions, we see a flurry of calls and chats during a shift. This may be as a result of an article in the media. The most recent example was when footballer Paul Merson appeared on Good Morning Britain and in the new BBC documentary, Paul Merson: Football, Gambling and Me. He gave a frank and heartfelt account of the impacts that gambling has had on his life and the lives of his loved ones. Advisers soon noticed the lines becoming busier and callers mentioning they had seen the interview. Well done to Paul for speaking out. Hopefully, others have been helped because of this interview.
The job title Frontline Services Adviser is spot on. We are at the frontline and often we are the first point of contact for anyone that needs help. Behind the scenes, the helpline has a real family feel to it. Team leaders, senior advisers and frontline advisers are all there to support each other. There is always someone there and we all help and support each other. Each team has a check-in at the beginning of a shift and a check-out at the end. A little banter during the shift is often needed and goes a long way to keep our spirits up!
Training is another important part of our role. There is so much we need to know about all the subjects we deal with. We have had training on suicide awareness and prevention, domestic abuse, risk assessment, safeguarding adults and children and so much more. As well as the training, we have to be up to date with GamCare’s policies and procedures and GDPR legislation.
Before I joined the Gamcare family, I had an image of what gambling was, but I now know there is no such thing as a typical gambler. They can be any age, gender, culture, religion, class or from any walk of life. I have often been on a call and heard “why do I do it? I am an intelligent person.” This addiction does not discriminate, and intelligence doesn’t even enter into the equation.
Service users, clients, callers, problem gamblers, affected others. They are all people. People with their own stories and problems. People being negatively affected in some way by gambling. And so we listen, we reassure, and we ask questions, we build a rapport and get a picture of what is going on for people so we can give them the best advice, help, information and support.
Is my job rewarding? Yes. Do I get a sense of pride each time I help someone? Absolutely. At the end of a long, difficult call – when someone says “thank you, you have been amazing” it gives you the strength to carry on and help others. And that is what I enjoy.