GambleAware cites that the stigma of gambling addiction remains an evident barrier in victims of gambling harm seeking treatment in Scotland.
The observation follows an evaluation of Gambling Support Services (GGS) in Scotland undertaken by research consultancy Kantar Public.
Conducted by Citizens Advice Scotland (CAS), the GGS trains frontline workers to help them recognise people at risk of experiencing gambling harms.
GGS training has been focused on the development of staff within the frontline services of local police, welfare, paramedics, debt advice, housing, and mental health charities.
Kantar Public undertook an independent evaluation to explore the experiences of staff trained by GGS over the past two years of the directive to help capture direct learnings.
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.
However, feedback cited that stigma “was both a personal and social barrier to seeking support,” as concerns and resistance was noticed among frontline workers asking questions intended to identify gambling harm amongst their clients.
GSS advisors felt that the public understanding of the severity of gambling harm is limited, and stigma exists towards those experiencing addiction, which in turn reduces the numbers seeking advice.
Anna Hargrave, GambleAware’s Chief Commissioning Officer, said: “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.”
Following the evaluation, it was recommended that the GGS focus training on reducing hesitancy and increasing confidence among frontline workers.
New action points were recommended for the development of GGS trainees, who will receive more thorough training to address the issue of ‘perceived uncomfortable conversations.’
Training will require a more flexible approach to help encourage natural conversations with clients about gambling harms and reduce stigma.
Frontline workers should be provided with deeper guidance on tackling the diverse range of barriers that can lead to stigmas by the patient, which can show how harms are recognised.
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.”