Local Spotlight – Tackling gambling related harm across Cheshire and Merseyside

Beacon Counselling Trust (BCT), a North West based charity, specialising in supporting individuals that present with a range of mild to moderate mental health issues is working with Local Authorities across Cheshire and Merseyside to tackle gambling related harm by offering training courses to frontline professionals and schools.

BCT state that gambling is often described as a ‘hidden addiction’, as it can be very difficult to know if someone is struggling with gambling just by how they present themselves. Because of this, it is not often that a patient will identify gambling as their primary presenting problem to a GP or other healthcare professional. However, it can often be the underlying cause of many mental, physical and practical issues that patients present with. Because gambling addiction can be easier to hide, and those dealing with these harms can go a long period of time without disclosing the addiction, patients will often struggle to open up about their gambling to a healthcare professional, without the appropriate prompt or screening.

Understanding the wider determinants, presentations, and risks of gambling harms, and integrating this knowledge into wider care pathways for patients is imperative in order to achieve parity with drugs and alcohol and reduce the significant and long-lasting harms that gambling can cause.

As part of the National Gambling Support Network, BCT offer local support across locations within the North West, through specialist one-to-one, couples, and group treatment for those struggling with these issues. This support is also available for any affected families or partners of those impacted by someone else’s gambling. Support and treatment are delivered face-to-face, over video call, or telephone. BCT have clear referral pathways into local Tier 3B and 4 services to ensure an appropriate stepped care approach is used for all service-users.

BCT run a Royal Society of Public Health (RSPH) accredited Level 2 training course called ‘Bet You Can Help’. This is a one-day course which offers a Level 2 qualification in ‘Tackling Gambling Related Harms’. Alongside this, BCT offer a 1.5 hour version of this course called ‘Bet You Can Help NOW’, which is a free, universal offer for any professionals in supporting roles that aim to be more informed about gambling harms and the local support available.

Local stats on gambling from GambleAware show that a number of areas within Cheshire and Merseyside fall above the national average for levels of moderate and severe gambling. Cheshire and Merseyside have a combined annual cost of gambling harm across the areas of £43,217,960, further work to reduce the impact of gambling harms on the individual, the community, and wider society would be beneficial.

The Collaborative is pleased to hear that many of the local authorities across Cheshire and Merseyside have continuing gambling initiatives in place or are working towards having them in place with some already meeting regularly with their steering groups. Both Sefton Council and Halton Council have worked directly with BCT to educate both the public and professionals on gambling related harm. The two examples are below.

Sefton Council

Sefton Public Health Team began working with BCT after the results of a data analysis involving front-facing roles across the borough showed a theme emerged, clustering around some of the most socioeconomically deprived wards in the south of Sefton relating to gambling related harms. This theme was predominantly associated with gambling related harms not being picked up early enough and not knowing what resource was available to help support with these.

As a result of this, training is now offered online for staff working in front-facing roles in Sefton to help them feel confident in how to have the conversation around harmful gambling as well as how to screen for harmful gambling as part of a MECC approach. To date there has been:

  • Four training sessions over three training dates
  • 55 people completed the training
  • Attendees were from Living Well Sefton, Sefton CLC, Brighter Living Partnership, Woodvale Community Centre, Netherton Feelgood Factory, Sefton CVS, Active Sefton, Active Lifestyles and Sefton Council

Halton Council

Halton Council are also currently working with BCT through their Healthy Schools Programme, both in primary and secondary schools.

Halton found that the majority of schools in the area identify that gambling and gaming harms are a concern for them, as they are aware of children being impacted by gambling in a number of forms – particularly in online gaming such as Fortnite.

The workshops that BCT are offering in the Healthy Schools Programme aim to educate not just pupils but parents and teachers on the harms of gambling. Once engaged with the programme pupils can access workshops on gambling harms and staff can access practitioner training and promote the parent workshops and support services. 37 Halton schools requested the gambling and gaming workshop from BCT – 36 of these are year 6 primary schools and one secondary school.

Rebekah Walsh, Start Well Practice Manager, Halton Council said:

“We’re really pleased with how well the programme is going. We found that most schools requested pupil workshops, and feedback from these sessions has been very positive from both pupils and teachers. We hope to continue to offer these valuable workshops for as long as possible”

For more information about BCTs treatment, referral pathways, or training offer, please call 0151 226 0696 or email support@beaconcounsellingtrust.co.uk