GamCare calls for ‘better referral pathways’ to tackle rising debt risks

In a bid to provide better support for victims of gambling-related harm, GamCare has urged UK-licensed operators to form “better referral pathways between sectors”.

Outlined as a top priority for the treatment support charity, this suggestion formed part of GamCare’s latest financial harm workshop to examine ways of preventing and reducing gambling-related debt. 

With financial pressures continuing to surround British consumers, GamCare highlighted the need for the industry’s various sectors to unite against gambling harm, stating that it is “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.”

Data from the National Gambling Treatment Service revealed that six out of 10 people accessing gambling treatment had struggled with debts due to gambling, with “two per cent insolvent – either bankrupt or in an Individual voluntary arrangement (IVA).”

Prioritising this issue, GamCare has continuously collaborated with StepChange, a debt-relief and consumer advice organisation. Together, the collaboration has gathered over 60 organisations to provide insight on its latest workshop and industry recommendations.

Listening to institutions such as Bristol University, Lloyds Banking Group, Citizens Advice and Payplan, GamCare has stated that gambling firms ought to “build close partnerships with organisations offering regulated and free debt advice” in order to tackle this issue. 

The charity also suggested that support offered by operators “should build reciprocal referral pathways so that debt and gambling could be addressed simultaneously.”

Additional suggestions noted that customer referrals should move beyond “simple signposting” (providing the phone number or website address) to engage the customer directly with treatment practitioners, such as PayPlan, who will provide expert support on debt issues.

Emma Gibbons, Vulnerable Client Lead at PayPlan, said: “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.”

Feedback driven by lived experience has revealed that problem gamblers often reported that they have unsuccessfully attempted to deal with their debts while continuing to gamble, suggesting that customer support teams need to improve debt risks and gambling harm analysis. 

Additionally, lived experience feedback also suggested that operators should be routinely asking clients about gambling spend when doing their income and expenditure forms, allowing for the normalisation of gambling harm discourse.

Due to this specific issue, GamCare has furthered its ‘Action on Gambling Harm’ programme to provide staff training on identifying these financial risks and players gambling with debts. 

Citizens Advice will provide a direct referral pathway into GamCare’s treatment serice, with Katie Fry, Project Development Manager at Citizens Advice, stating: “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.”