How GambleAware’s education hubs protect children and young people from gambling related harms
Monday, May 9, 2022
In today’s ‘digital age’ we sometimes see children growing up almost too quickly, which is of particular concern when it comes to engaging with activities which can be harmful to their development and health.
Gambling is an adult activity and yet research suggests worrying rates of young people participating in gambling.
The recent figures from the Gambling Commission and analysis by the UK Addiction Treatment Group (UKAT) is evidence of this, as the biggest increase in overall gambling amongst over 16’s was within the 16-24 age group. Social media of course is a key point of access to young people, and these platforms host a large quantity of gambling marketing and advertising - it is also estimated that 41,000 followers of gambling accounts on social media are likely to be under the age of 16. Video games can also expose children and young people to gambling-like activities, particularly through ‘loot box’ features which are used by 40 per cent of children who play video games.
This is why the collaboration between GambleAware and Fast Forward in rolling out the new education hubs offering targeted prevention and support for young people is crucial for the protection of young people and the creation of a society safe from gambling harm.
The education hubs focus on early intervention and prevention tools to prevent gambling harms in young people, offering training, resources and information to teachers, youth practitioners, parents, and young people themselves. As we are fully commissioned and funded by GambleAware, we are able to offer our service completely free at the point of use. In the last year our programme has reached 15,000 secondary school pupils and trained 3,000 practitioners working with children and young people. Following these successes, GambleAware has invested £2.5m to expand the Gambling Education Hub Service to England and Wales, offering educational support to young people across the UK.
The hub is an excellent tool for protecting young people from gambling related harms as they offer extensive support and guidance for practitioners, helping them to identify and tackle the signs early on. The free toolkit we have developed has everything a practitioner might need, as it has detailed session plans and up to date information for practitioners to learn from.
I first became involved with the education hubs through Fast Forward back in 2015, before the Gambling Education Hubs had officially been launched. We were working on a Peer Education Model, which inspired me to develop my project ‘YOU WANNA B£T?’. The focus of the project was to visit schools and youth clubs in South Lanarkshire to raise awareness of gambling related harms and use a harm reduction approach to educate children and young people. This method has since been applied to the Education Hubs, which today is an incredible project offering fantastic resources and support for practitioners across Community Learning Development, schools, higher and further education and more.
In order to properly address youth gambling harms, much like with adults, it requires a public health approach which should be centred around prevention and education. It is through initiatives like the education hubs that effective, long lasting support and change can be enacted.
Conor Maxwell is a youth family community learning officer at South Lanarkshire Council
Anyone concerned about their gambling, or that of a loved one, can visit BeGambleAware.org for free, confidential advice and support, or The National Gambling Helpline is available on 0808 8020 133 and operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week.