Gambling support charity GamCare has found that fewer gamblers are seeking support during lockdown, after releasing a report documenting the performance of its services during periods of heightened restrictions.
The National Gambling Helpline, operated by GamCare and available 24 hours a day over the phone or via one-to-one live chat, showed that despite lockdown exacerbating existing anxieties surrounding finances and isolation amongst gamblers, an ability to seek help was limited amid struggles for privacy.
These concerns also drove an increasing switch to live chat as opposed to phone calls, with this channel offering more discretion if families or housemates are in close proximity.
It was added that many people contacting the Helpline have not yet spoken to their loved ones about what they are going through, and were seeking advice on how to broach the subject.
Other trends among GamCare’s frontline services during the March to August reporting period saw engagement with online chat rooms increase, an increasing concern among Helpline staff around domestic abuse being experienced by callers and a “significant minority” asking for self-exclusion via Gamstop to be lifted.
Furthermore, the report also states that despite existing engagement with GamCare treatment services remaining high, the number of people beginning treatment during this period was lower than the previous year.
Anna Hemmings, chief executive of GamCare, explained: “There is no doubt that the pandemic has impacted people’s help seeking, particularly in the initial phase of the pandemic when our daily lives were immeasurably changed. Our service users are speaking to us about increasing anxiety, isolation and money worries.
“As we now look at further lockdowns across various areas, we need to be aware of the impact and risks for gamblers experiencing harm. We need to be more vocal about encouraging people to seek help despite the external pressures, and to remind people that we’re here to help as we did in the summer with our #ReadyToTalk campaign.
“There is no doubt that gamblers and their loved ones will continue to need support, perhaps increasingly so. GamCare is doing all it can to be flexible and tailor its services to meet those complex and changing needs during the pandemic and beyond. From the very first contact you have with us, we can make a difference – if you’re worried about your gambling or anyone else’s, talk to us now.”