Stigma remains a personal and social barrier to people in Scotland seeking help for gambling harm, according to an independent evaluation commissioned by GambleAware.
Conducted by Kantar Public, the study looked at Gambling Support Service (GSS), which is delivered in the country via a joint initiative between GambleAware and Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS).
The project delivers training to frontline workers, helping them recognise when people are at risk of, or experiencing, gambling harms. Training has been given to Citizens Advice Bureaux locations across Scotland, as well as local authority staff, services such as the police and paramedics, and debt advice, housing, and mental health charities.
The evaluation focused on the first two years of the project, with the main concerns being that public understanding of the severity of gambling harm was limited, while stigma exists towards those experiencing gambling harm, which in turn stops them from seeking advice.
To address these issues, the evaluation put forward a series of recommendations, including producing clearer guidance for workers setting out why gambling could be a problem for clients, as well as how to weave questions designed to identify harm into conversations.
Kantar Public also recommended exploring flexibility in the use of questions designed to identify harm, to encourage more natural conversations with clients about gambling harms and reduce stigma.
In addition, it was suggested that more thorough training be developed to address the issue of perceived uncomfortable conversations about harms related to gambling.
The evaluation added that trainees felt the GSS played a “valuable” role in improving client advice on and aiding the reduction of gambling harm across Scotland, with workers able to offer advice and signpost to relevant support organisations.
“We know that discussions about gambling can be challenging, and that training and the tools provided were key to preparing frontline workers to have conversations with clients about gambling,” GambleAware chief commissioning officer Anna Hargrave said.
“The production of clearer guidance and an increased flexibility around questions should help front-line workers in identifying harms, having sensitive client conversations and helping reduce stigma going forward.”
Citizens Advice Scotland chief executive Derek Mitchell added: “The Scottish Citizens Advice network is proud to deliver this very important service, which has delivered real results by training over 2,000 professionals on how to identify gambling related harms.
“It is very clear from the feedback we get that stigma is a major problem, and that is why it is so important for the CAB network that we do not judge anyone’s circumstances or background when seeking help, and believe it is vital people seek support as soon as possible.
“The earlier someone gets the support they need the faster they can deal with the problem; it really is as simple as that. The alternative is burying your head in the sand as problems grow and grow until they are overwhelming. People shouldn’t be embarrassed or worried about seeking help, it is the first step to solving their issues.”
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