Kev Clelland Operations Director 921x1024

Kev Clellend

Education about safer gambling is essential every week of the year

The vision of YGAM is for all young people to be safe from gaming and gambling-related harms. For us, every week of every year is dedicated to raising awareness and preventing harm to future generations. However, Safer Gambling Week presents a unique platform for us to raise our profile significantly.

The campaign provides us with an opportunity to get recognised and really shout about the resources we offer to educate and safeguard young people. We are a fairly small but hugely dedicated team made up of mostly teachers, parents, students, affected others and individuals with lived experience. It is always humbling to reflect on our relentless progress and the overwhelming positive feedback we receive from education professionals, politicians, academics and industry leaders motivates us to drive forward.

The infectious passion of our team and the unwavering commitment to our social purpose stems from the admiration we have for our founders Lee, Anne and Keith. This year served a poignant reminder of exactly why we do what we do with so much determination. After suffering for around 25 years with a gambling addiction, Anne’s son Alan tragically committed suicide at the age of 40 and this summer marked the 10th anniversary of that day. Anne, now 86, is the heart and soul of our charity and her inspirational story will forever be at the forefront of everything we do.

Anne is also a life-long Nottingham Forest fan, so this week includes an extra special moment for our organisation as we will be the club’s shirt sponsor for their game against high-flying Bournemouth on Tuesday night. Forest are one of two Championship clubs sponsored by Football Index this season and they have donated their shirt sponsorship to YGAM this week.

Queens Park Rangers wore their special edition shirts against Watford on Saturday. The game ended in a 1-1 draw, however the real winners are the thousands of people who will now be aware of the charity and will benefit from the free resources we provide. This follows an initiative earlier this year from Football Index, which saw it launch a new Gambling Awareness Initiative with Nottingham Forest, highlighting the importance of safer gambling and helping to educate football supporters within local communities.

When I told Anne the exciting news that her charity will be on the shirts of her beloved team, her reaction was a celebration of enormous pride and personal achievement. She does what she does and she leads YGAM because of her determination to help make sure no mothers or families ever have to experience the hurt she did. We’re tremendously grateful to both clubs and Football Index for their amazing support.

Our team spirit thrives on the ever-increasing growth, reach and impact of our programmes despite the challenges of Covid-19. Keeping consumers and young people safe, especially during these unprecedented times, should be a priority for everyone, including the industry, Government and the regulator. It is more important than ever that all stakeholders connected to the sector come together to support initiatives that raise awareness of the potential risks associated with gambling.

We know the vast majority of people can enjoy gambling safely, however we must provide effective support to people who do experience problems. It is vital that we bring people’s attention to the expert advice and support available to them.

There are some brilliant support networks and resources, many established and informed by people with lived experience, to help all ages better understand the risks and the wider impact these can have on someone’s mental health, lifestyle and relationships. We also believe there are some talented people in the sector who are genuinely working hard to improve player protection and work on safer gambling initiatives. But we think the customer-facing teams in gambling operators can improve by understanding gambling-related harm through the powerful lens of lived experience.

One key initiative we are promoting this week is our safer gambling training for operators. We’ve joined up with the great team at Betknowmore UK to launch a digital learning programme to provide gambling industry employees with specialist online training to strengthen player protection standards and effectively safeguard consumers from gambling-related harm. The resources have been developed using a methodology known as ‘flipped learning’ derived from neuroscience studies on how the brain learns.

Both organisations are led by individuals with lived experience and the collaboration combines our specialist knowledge, insight and research to create what is believed to be the most advanced and comprehensive training programmes globally. The digital training content is all relevant to the Gambling Commission’s latest LCCP requirements and has received funding from regulatory settlements to support the delivery of the National Strategy to Reduce Gambling-related Harms.

We believe there needs to be a recognised standard that colleagues within the sector can take with them throughout their career, and which includes regular mandatory updates and refresher courses. A consistent high level of customer service is needed and would really build trust with regulators.

It is also pleasing to see the national and regional media taking an interest in Safer Gambling Week and the purposeful work that some charities are doing to help people. The campaign provides smaller organisations like YGAM with a unique opportunity to reach millions of people through a variety of platforms which is just not achievable during other weeks of the year. In the build up to this year’s campaign, we’ve had media interest from more journalists than ever which has led to further opportunities to raise awareness of the impactful work we do.

We are still a small organisation making a big impact with very ambitious plans. Our partnerships and collaborations help us reach thousands of young people now across all regions of the country, including Northern Ireland. The profile and calibre of organisations who are enthusiastic to work with us really highlights the quality of our programmes and the importance of our social purpose.

The Government’s forthcoming review of the Gambling Act will be an opportunity to look at the whole sector and implement substantial long-term improvements to raise standards and improve public trust in the sector. We believe views from all perspectives should be welcomed and respected throughout the process.

YGAM is not a campaigning organisation, however we will work closely with stakeholders and the government to offer our expertise to ensure any changes are focused on keeping future generations safe. Our input is always evidence-based and informed by the insight we acquire from working with the education sector and young people. Progress has been made in recent years but much more needs to be done to protect consumers in a fast-paced digital world.

As our work continues to get high-profile positive recognition, we will continue to engage with organisations from all sectors to ensure it helps to support young people. A collaborative approach is the most effective way to reduce gambling-related harm. Our overriding message for Safer Gambling Week is to highlight the importance of education.

Evidence-led education like YGAMs is essential every week of the year if we are to prevent gambling-related harms and safeguard future generations. Safer Gambling Week should be every week and we are committed to collaborating with anyone who shares our vision.

Kev Clelland is YGAM’s operations director

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