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Evaluation of gambling harm advice service in Scotland evidences stigma as a barrier to identifying and asking for support for gambling harm

24th Feb 2023 Joe Williams

Evaluation of gambling harm advice service in Scotland evidences stigma as a barrier to identifying and asking for support for gambling harm

The service trained over 2,000 professionals across Scotland on the identification of gambling harms, but highlighted how a perceived stigma presents a significant barrier.

The Gambling Support Service (GSS) is delivered by Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) in partnership with GambleAware. 

The project delivers training to frontline workers, to help them recognise when people are at risk of, or experiencing, gambling harms. Training has been delivered to Citizens Advice Bureaux across Scotland, as well as local authority staff; services such as the police and paramedics; and debt advice, housing, and mental health charities. 

GambleAware commissioned Kantar Public to conduct an independent evaluation to explore the experiences of those involved in the first two years of the project, and capture learnings from it.  
The evaluation identified the progress made in building capacity among workforces across Scotland to identify and advise clients about harms related to gambling, with over 2,000 professionals trained and a 97% satisfaction rate among trainees.

The evaluation found that stigma was both a personal and social barrier to seeking support. It identified some concerns and resistance among frontline workers concerning asking questions intended to identify gambling harm amongst their clients. 
Advisors felt that the public understanding of the severity of gambling harm is limited, and stigma exists towards those experiencing gambling harm, which in turn reduces the numbers seeking advice. 

To reduce hesitancy and increase confidence among frontline workers to ask questions designed to enable identification of harms resulting from gambling, the evaluation recommended:


  • Producing clearer guidance for frontline workers explaining why gambling could be a problem for clients seeking assistance on a wide range of issues, and how to weave questions designed to identify harm into conversations. 
  • Exploring flexibility in the use of questions designed to identify harm, to encourage more natural conversations with clients about gambling harms and reduce stigma.
  • Development of more thorough training designed to address the issue of perceived uncomfortable conversations about harms related to gambling.

Trainees reported feeling that GSS played a valuable role in improving client advice on and aiding the reduction of gambling harm across Scotland. Frontline workers were able to offer advice (such as helping clients download gambling website blocking apps), and signpost to relevant support organisations that were felt to be most suited to clients’ needs. 

In 2022 GambleAware recommissioned the Gambling Support Service for a further three years, and Citizens Advice Scotland has actively engaged in embedding the learning from the evaluation, and exploring ways to reduce the barrier of stigma.

Anna Hargrave, Chief Commissioning Officer, GambleAware said: 'This evaluation provides valuable insight into what can be improved in an already successful and impactful service. 
"We know that discussions about gambling can be challenging and that training and the tools provided were key to preparing frontline workers to have conversations with clients about gambling. 

"The production of clearer guidance and an increased flexibility around questions should help front-line workers in identifying harms, having sensitive client conversations and helping reduce stigma going forward."

Derek Mitchell, Chief Executive of Citizens Advice Scotland, said: “The Scottish Citizens Advice network is proud to deliver this very important service, which has delivered real results by training over 2,000 professionals on how to identify gambling related harms. 

“It is very clear from the feedback we get that stigma is a major problem, and that is why it is so important for the CAB network that we do not judge anyone’s circumstances or background when seeking help, and believe it is vital people seek support as soon as possible. 

"The earlier someone gets the support they need the faster they can deal with the problem, it really is as simple as that. The alternative is burying your head in the sand as problems grow and grow until they are overwhelming. People shouldn’t be embarrassed or worried about seeking help, it is the first step to solving their issues.”


Notes to Editors 

About Gambling Service Scotland:

Gambling Support Service (GSS) has been delivered by Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS) in partnership with GambleAware since April 2020. GSS Scotland was initially designed as a two-year pilot project aiming to:  

  • promote a public health approach to the identification and treatment of gambling harm.  
  • reduce gambling harms and improve client outcomes by increasing opportunities for early identification and intervention. 
  • increase awareness of gambling harm prevention services among frontline service providers and the general public in Scotland, and develop a stronger evidence base about gambling harm in Scotland. 

GSS Scotland activities fall into three ‘strands’: 

  • training (advisers in Citizens Advice Bureaux across Scotland, and external workforces)
  • awareness raising and engagement
  • client advice.

Outputs, outcomes, impact

  • 2,183 professionals trained, through 247 training sessions
  • 317 Citizens Advice staff completed e-learning modules
  • 97% satisfaction rate (among trainees)
  • 62% knowledge shift (among trainees)
  • 33 awareness raising events attended, and 28 awareness raising presentations delivered
  • 183 Citizens Advice clients recorded as receiving advice on gambling harm, 31 of whom received support from specially trained GSS staff

+44 (0) 772 9120 230

About Stigma
Stigmatisation refers to a social process through which a difference between individuals is labelled, with negative stereotyping following from this difference. This creates distinct ‘us’ and ‘them’ groups, resulting in status loss and/or experiences of discrimination for members of the othered group (Link and Phelan, 2001). Stigmatisation is a significant negative consequence faced by people who experience gambling harms. Stigma attached to gambling acts as a barrier to individuals engaging with support services and can result in feelings of isolation (Hing et al., 2014; Hing et al., 2015). 

About GambleAware

  • GambleAware is the leading independent charity (Charity No. England & Wales 1093910, Scotland SC049433) and commissioner of prevention, support and treatment services for gambling harms across Great Britain working to keep people safe from gambling harms.
  • We do this by leading public health campaigns, education programmes and driving the transformation of treatment and prevention services. 
  • We work in close collaboration with the NHS, clinicians, local and national government, gambling treatment providers, as well as other services like mental health, services for people who use drugs and alcohol, as well as harm reduction services, to ensure that the whole system works together to help people suffering from gambling harms.
  • We commission the National Gambling Treatment service which each year provides free, confidential treatment to roughly 10,000 people, with over 41,000 calls being made to the National Gambling Helpline.  
  • We also run national public health behaviour change campaigns, commission education programmes, workforce training and run the BeGambleAware website with over 6m users per annum.
  • We have topic expertise with an established infrastructure and an extremely robust process in place to support the implementation of a long term, joined up commissioning strategy. 
  • This is guided by a Board of trustees comprised of leaders from the NHS and public health, led by Baroness Kate Lampard CBE, lead non-executive director at DHSC. The gambling industry has absolutely no input or influence into any of GambleAware’s activities.

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