We have published the latest recommendations for addressing gambling related debt, calling for better referral pathways between sectors to support those experiencing harm.
In November, we facilitated the second in our series of workshops exploring gambling related debt, with this event focussing on how different sectors can better support clients’ gambling related debt.
The workshop builds on data from the National Gambling Treatment Service, which found that at the time of initial assessment, 6 in 10 people accessing gambling treatment had debts due to gambling, with 2% insolvent – either bankrupt or in an Individual Voluntary Arrangement (IVA).
As acute financial pressures are translating into increasing risks for those struggling to control their gambling and levels of debt, including risks of housing problems and homelessness, the imperative for the debt advice, gambling support sectors and consumer credit firms to offer a range of solutions to support clients is greater than ever.
As a representative from StepChange outlined during the workshop, “if gambling isn’t addressed, then any debt solution will be temporary”.
The workshop brought together over 60 attendees, and we heard insights from a panel of expert speakers representing Bristol University, Lloyds Banking Group, some of the leading debt advice organisations including Citizens Advice, PayPlan, StepChange, as well as speakers with lived experience of gambling related debt.
Building cross-sector partnerships
One of the key themes discussed during this event was for the gambling support and treatment services and debt advice sector to build reciprocal referral pathways so that debt and gambling could be addressed simultaneously.
At GamCare, we have started building close partnerships with organisations offering regulated and free debt advice. For example, instead of simple signposting (I.e., providing the phone number or website address), our treatment practitioners work directly with PayPlan, one of the leading debt advice providers in the UK, and the clients with debts can be referred to PayPlan’s team for specialist debt advice support.
Emma Gibbons, Vulnerable Client Lead at PayPlan:
“As part of our partnership, we have a specialist advice team in place who work closely with GamCare, ensuring a “tell us once”, confidential and tailored approach to client’s needs.
We’ve ensured that all of our operational staff have received GamCare’s training, to understand the indicators and barriers clients tackling gambling-related financial harm often face.”
Identifying harmful gambling in debt advice clients
Our service users often report that they unsuccessfully tried dealing with their debts whilst still gambling. During our event we heard from those with lived experience of gambling harms, and they spoke about how sticking to a debt repayment plan can be unrealistic for someone actively gambling.
Lias, Debt Adviser with lived experience of gambling harm:
“I tried dealing with my debts before I dealt with my gambling problem – this didn’t work because I was still actively gambling.
Debt advisers now have a range of tools they can recommend for clients, such as signposting to gambling support and treatment, gambling blocks, blocking software or self-exclusion schemes. But as a sector, we need to get better at talking to clients about their gambling. Perhaps it’s still not seen as a huge problem, which I know it is.”
These lived experience stories and the discussions that took place during our event highlight the need for debt clients to receive gambling support so that debt or insolvency plan can be managed successfully.
Participants discussed the benefits of introducing sector-wide gambling awareness training for debt advisers, to ensure consistent practice, equipping staff with skills to identify and support clients with gambling related debts. One of the suggestions was to normalise conversations about gambling by routinely asking clients about gambling spend when doing the income and expenditure form.
Citizens Advice recognise that harmful gambling can lead to debt, housing and relationship issues. Their “Action on Gambling Harm” programme is an initiative to support people more effectively, whether they are gambling or affected by someone else’s gambling.
The programme, funded by GambleAware, provides training for staff, teaching them how to recognise, understand and address gambling harms. As part of this work, Citizens Advice also set up a direct referral pathway into GamCare’s treatment service.
Katie Fry, Project Development Manager at Citizens Advice:
“By directly referring people to GamCare we can quickly get them the right support they need to move forward with their problems.”
Following our series of workshops, we have developed a good understanding of the best practices to tackle gambling related debts, and the changes that need to be made across sectors to support those affected. We look forward to working in partnership with colleagues across the debt advice, credit, and gambling support sectors to bring our recommendations into action.