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GambleAware responds to inaccurate and misleading claims

GambleAware responds to inaccurate and misleading claims

Updated statement in full from GambleAware’s CEO, Zoë Osmond, following Charity Commission decision: 12th July 2024

12 July 2024: Following the Charity Commission’s decision to close its case against GambleAware, Zoë Osmond, CEO, said:

“The Charity Commission has informed us of their decision to close its case without criticism of, or findings against, GambleAware. They stated that they are ‘assured that the trustees have taken appropriate steps to both ensure its [GambleAware’s] independence from the gambling industry’ and confirmed that it is ‘satisfied that the Charity’s reliance on industry funding does not impact on decision-making about its activities’. 

“GambleAware welcomes the Charity Commission’s decision. Our organisation is wholly dedicated to advancing our charitable purposes for the public benefit and we are proud of our achievements. We continue our work to prevent gambling harms and provide vital support to those affected. These include the commissioning of impactful gambling harm prevention programmes and treatment services through the National Gambling Support Network (NGSN). 

“As always, we urge anyone experiencing harm to reach out. Help and support are available through the National Gambling Support Network and the National Gambling Helpline, offering free, confidential assistance 24/7 to those in need.” 

17 May 2024: Following recent public inaccurate and misleading claims about GambleAware, Zoë Osmond, CEO, has said in response to these statements:

“Gambling harms have a devastating impact on individuals, families, and communities. As the leading independent charity dedicated to preventing and treating these harms in Great Britain, GambleAware’s foremost priority is to prevent harm and provide accessible support to those affected. These services are vital, remarkably effective, and readily accessible.

"Gambling operator funding remains the primary source of funding for prevention, treatment, and research into gambling harm. Many charities and organisations receive this funding through the Gambling Commission. We believe the gambling industry should be held accountable to contribute financially to the vital services that prevent gambling harms, which is why we have consistently advocated for a statutory levy. 

"Our robust governance and commissioning practices ensure that the industry has no influence over our operations. GambleAware’s independence has been widely recognised by a range of stakeholders including the Government, as evidenced in the Gambling White Paper.

"The complaint lodged to the Charity Commission by The Good Law project is based on misleading and outdated information. While we are confident that this complaint will not be upheld, we are deeply concerned that inaccurate headlines and misleading newspaper articles may have a damaging impact on our services and the people that rely on them.

"The deeply stigmatised nature of gambling harms often makes it difficult for individuals to reach out for help. Maintaining the credibility and reputation of essential support services is crucial to reaching people before their gambling issues become catastrophic. Undermining these services, and the dedicated workers and experts who operate them, risks not only those directly relying on them but also the many indirectly affected by a loved one's gambling problems.

"As gambling harms affect more people, it's crucial for us all to come together to prevent and alleviate them. GambleAware remains focused on our mission to prevent gambling harms and provide vital support to those affected. We appreciate the continued trust and support from our stakeholders and the public, and we urge anyone experiencing harm to reach out. Help and support are available through the National Gambling Support Network and the National Gambling Helpline, offering free, confidential assistance 24/7 to those in need.”

Additional background info on GambleAware:  

  • The National Gambling Support Network: GambleAware commissions the National Gambling Support Network (NGSN) which is a group of organisations across Great Britain which provides free, confidential treatment and support 24/7, 365 days a year. Tens of thousands of people are supported through the service, including through over 50,000 calls to the National Gambling Helpline. The NGSN providers hold a wealth of experience, expertise and knowledge in the field of gambling harm treatment and recovery support. Treatment services within the NGSN offer holistic support programmes through interventions provided by mental health practitioners, support workers, counsellors and psychotherapists. Many of these counsellors and psychotherapists are CBT qualified, which is a core offer within the model of care provided by organisations within the network.
  • Effectiveness of GambleAware commissioned treatment: The published annual National Gambling Support Network statistics include an overview of all episodes of care, including where individuals may not complete their treatment. For patients who complete their treatment as planned, 9 in 10 see an improvement in their condition. Among the minority of patients whose outcomes appear not to improve, in most cases (69%) it is because they did not complete treatment:
    • There are a range of reasons why an individual might not complete treatment, including: being referred to another service for further support; being discharged by mutual agreement; an individual choosing to drop-out of their treatment.
  • Public health approach: GambleAware is dedicated to tackling gambling harms as a public health issue through a whole system approach and societal change. We do this by bringing together public sector and charity partners into a coalition to of expertise to provide targeted, innovative and effective services that help reduce gambling harm. This is highlighted in our recent annual report.
  • Reach: GambleAware’s commissioned services reach tens of thousands of people each year, including through our website which has 6.5 million visits each year.
  • Governance: All GambleAware’s research, treatment and education programmes are subject to robust testing and independent quality review and evaluation processes following thorough procurement and commissioning processes.
  • Working with the NHS: GambleAware works closely with the NHS to ensure people are able to access the help and support they need. This is evidenced through the statement from the National Clinical Advisor to NHS England in June 2023, which states that “the NHS has a commitment to continue the longstanding and constructive work with GambleAware”.
  • Public health campaigns: GambleAware’s national stigma public health campaign has been co-designed and co-developed with people who have lived experience of gambling harm, using real voices and real stories. The campaign has been designed to change societal perceptions and understanding of the issue, by making it clear that those experiencing harm are not at fault and anyone can experience harm from gambling. The campaign has seen positive results, including reaching over 95% of the population, with 94% of those who recognised the campaign reporting taking an action as a result, such as calling the helpline, starting a conversation or going online for advice.
  • Harmful products and industry practices: We actively promote and support measures and regulatory changes to gambling products to prevent or reduce harm. Most recently through:
  • Independence: GambleAware’s independence has been recognised by the Charity Commission for well over a decade, with previous accusations found to be ‘unsubstantiated’. GambleAware has evolved as an organisation over the years and maintained its independence, with a Board of trustees made up of leaders in the NHS and public health. The Government also recognises GambleAware’s independence as evidenced in the Gambling White Paper: “GambleAware is an independent charity and has had no industry trustees since October 2018 and the industry has no role in commissioning decisions.”
  • Industry funding: GambleAware has long called for the introduction of a statutory levy and change to the current voluntary funding system. Gambling operator funding remains the only source of funding for prevention, treatment and research into gambling harm. Many other charities and organisations receive industry funding through the Gambling Commission. GambleAware strongly supports the implementation of the statutory levy.
  • Gambling advertising: We have called for more regulation around gambling advertising, recognising the serious impact it can have on people and link to increased risk of harm. When the White Paper was published, we called on the lack of regulation in this space as a ‘missed opportunity’ and continue to encourage the Government to do more on this issue.
  • Safer gambling messaging: GambleAware has called for enhanced evidence-based health warnings to be introduced on gambling adverts and for the industry-led slogan ‘Take Time To Think’ to be replaced. The recommendation is in response to findings from an independent research consortium which found that emphasising addictiveness was shown to have greater cut-through. The straplines ‘Gambling can be addictive’; ‘Gambling comes at a cost’ and ‘Gambling can grip anyone’ were seen to effectively land the jeopardy of gambling harms.
  • Spend calculator: In 2023, GambleAware launched a refreshed and improved Spend Calculator tool on its website to help people keep track of much time and money they are spending on gambling and to get support if they are struggling to reduce their level of gambling by themselves. The spend calculator is clear throughout that gambling is illegal under the age of 18 and this is reinforced across the GambleAware website. Users at greater risk of gambling harm are signposted to further sources of advice and support and are encouraged to reduce their gambling to within the recommendations based on the Lower Risk Gambling Guidelines.
  • GambleAware commissioned education programmes: All commissioned activity is subject to a robust design process that supports an outcomes-based approach. This allows people with lived experience to inform the outcomes that the activity should achieve. We regularly evaluate our commissioned education programmes, engaging independent researchers to evaluate them and assess both impact and areas for improvement. We publish all our evaluations on our website.

Additional statement from Ben Howard, who has lived experience of gambling harms who said: 

“For many years I struggled with gambling and I found recovery through the GambleAware commissioned National Gambling Support Network. From this I was able to build a strong network of pre-support and treatment in under 48 hours, as well as sustained aftercare which I still use today in my fourth year of recovery. The NGSN not only provided me with life-changing guidance, but saved me from suicide in 2020. From this, I know first-hand just how essential and effective these services are and they continue to help thousands of people every year. Any claims that the services are unhelpful or inadequate are not only wrong, but also highly damaging and stigmatising for those needing support.”