YGAM: prevention of future harm is more important now than ever

UK

“The future for many young people is uncertain” was declared at the Young Gamers and Gamblers Education Trust’s Parliamentary Reception last week, as the organisation set out plans to protect young people in the UK from gaming and gambling harm moving forward.

Group CEO Dr Jane Rigbye stressed the importance of keeping young people protected from irresponsible gambling as they are already impacted by a number of disadvantages, namely the fallout from the pandemic and the increased cost of living.

In a speech to the Reception, she said: “Recent years have brought significant challenges to families still feeling the ripple effects of the impact of the pandemic. Young people have faced disruption to their education and their social development, and this disruption is likely to continue to affect their mental and physical health as they enter adulthood.

“Families are being further impacted by the increased cost of living, no doubt most significantly affecting those who feel the greatest burden due to inequalities in our society. Therefore, the prevention of future harm is more important now than ever.”

The charity’s strategy for the new year was launched on January 17, entitled ‘Safeguarding Our Digital Generation’, with Rigbye stating that it will acknowledge the similarities between gaming and gambling to better protect this generation. 

“We are in a rapidly advancing digital world,” said Rigbye. “The two issues are intrinsically linked, and the evidence suggests we are more likely to prevent children from harmful engagement with these products if we discuss their similarities, acknowledge their differences, and equip those with influence over the lives of young people with the information and skills to have effective prevention conversations about both activities.”

Rigbye continued to outline the organisation’s revised strategy, stating that YGAM aims to “deliver robust evidence-based services designed to equip people with the knowledge and tools to implement effective prevention interventions through their work or their conversations with young people.”

The CEO’s speech also touched upon YGA’s previous operations, explaining that: “For too long, YGAM have reported outputs, rather than understanding the change that happens because of our work.” 

Despite this statement, the firm will be publishing its 2022 impact report before the end of the month, with Rigbye stating that this document will “still have an output-heavy slant”. However, the charity will hope to amend this in coming months as the CEO suggested future reports will “be reporting much more on the change we’ve made.” 

Unsurprisingly, the speech acknowledged the insecurities surrounding the Gambling Act white paper review. Rigbye noted that YGAM “will work within whatever framework the government establishes for the funding of gambling harm prevention” and “ensure that universal education and prevention is seen as an essential part of the public health response.” 

Due to the very nature of the charity and similar organisations, player safety is believed to be most essential when it comes to the government revising its gambling laws, yet a number of sources have warned that stricter regulation could turn players to potentially dangerous illicit services. 

For example, the Betting and Gaming Council recently warned legislators that they risk driving customers towards unregulated operators with measures such as blanket affordability checks. 

Last month, a study conducted by the EY suggested that 70 per cent of bettors would be unwilling to allow regulated operators to conduct said checks to prove they can afford to wager.

Rigbye’s sentiment was echoed by Shadow Education Minister Jeff Smith, who also spoke at the Parliamentary Reception last week. The Labour MP for Manchester Withington stated that any changes to the funding model should not focus on “treatment alone”, while arguing that lawmakers need to be “preventing harm as well as tackling it”.