Ygam: lack of white paper clarity ‘has stemmed uncertainty’

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Appearing in Manchester at day three of the Conservative Party conference, Ygam CEO Dr Jane Rigbye underlined that the recent white paper publication has ‘stemmed uncertainty’ within the industry’s charity circles. 

Amongst the issues of HS2, smoking regulation, immigration and trans rights, the gambling industry was placed under the spotlight on a panel titled “The Gambling White Paper: Implications for Treatment’, with panellists discussing the impact of the Conservative Party’s 2019 pledge to review and update the Gambling Act. 

Appearing on the panel was Rigbye, who in front of a crowd of delegate MPs and journalists highlighted a need for the white paper to be “smart”, in order to best carry out the research, education and treatment levy structure.

Due to being one of the UK’s largest RET charities, Ygam would be a key beneficiary to the white paper’s proposed mandatory industry funding. While the organisation hopes to benefit from this proposal through an efficient structure, Rigbye outlined that “charities are discovering that the publication of the white paper has stemmed uncertainty.”

She continued: “The lack of clarity around the levy means many donors are now reluctant to commit to funding until the consultation period is clearer, and the new system is established. During this period, there is a risk that services provided by organisations who rely on the current system could be disrupted or discontinued.”

This comes as the UK Gambling Commission and the DCMS are currently undergoing consultations that give limited attention to the RET levy, with industry and treatment stakeholders partaking.

Having begun in July, the first batch of consultations are set to end on October 18 and have placed focus on financial risk and vulnerability, improving consumer choice on direct marketing and age verification in premises. 

The RET levy is set to be considered in the next round of consultations, due to begin in winter. While this would give Rigbye, Ygam and other RET organisations some clarity on plans for the levy, they will likely have to wait until the new year. 

In preparation for the next consultations, Rigbye urged policymakers not to overlook the contribution made by education organisations in tackling issues of gambling harm.

“All too often we see preventative education being overlooked in the debate or, in some cases and more worryingly, work to increase awareness of treatment availability being used to demonstrate investment in prevention,” said Rigbye. 

“Ygam argues that investment would be better off made upstream, so that less people need those treatment services in the first place.”

Finally, Rigbye made comments against a “misguided narrative” related to the perceived closeness of some RET organisations to the industry, with some companies having been criticised for an ‘overreliance’ on industry funding. 

“There appears to be a perception from some that organisations working in the current system are not independent from industry funders,” Rigbye added.

“This misguided narrative must not influence the new infrastructure and processes. All organisations seeking funding should be measured on the quality, scalability, and impact of their services.” 

Other industry delegates on  the panel included Gordon Moody, which organised the session with Green Pen Consulting, represented by CEO Matthew Hickey and Head of Service Development, Sarah Forshaw.

Stuart Andrew also made an appearance, charged with overseeing the review as the DCMS’ current  Secretary of State. Last month, Andrew highlighted the need for the UK to improve its research capabilities when it comes to gambling harm.