GamCare, the largest provider of support and treatment for gambling related harms across Great Britain, has released the first report from its pioneering Women’s Programme, funded by the Tampon Tax to deliver outreach, education and awareness on the subject. The report outlines worrying trends amongst women who are being harmed by gambling.
Gamblers identifying as female who were interviewed through the programme (a representative sample) reported feeling high levels of shame and stigma because of societal perceptions that gambling is a ‘male’ activity in which women should not, or do not, take part. Some reported an assumption that gambling could not be damaging to them or their families as they were not seen as financial ‘owners’ in the home. These perceptions contributed to low levels of help seeking, and higher levels of gambling harm.
In just the first year of delivering the programme, GamCare focused on barriers to women accessing help and in doing so worked with 300 organisations and more than 3,000 professionals to deliver their CPD accredited training – increasing the confidence of attendees to talk to women about gambling harms and support those affected. Through this programme they aim to use the learning to increase the skills and experience of thousands of intermediaries who can go on to better identify women who need support for gambling related harms.
GamCare’s Women’s Voices survey showed:
- Women who gamble report significant financial losses, with many reporting losses in the tens of thousands.
- Shame and stigma are significant barriers for those identifying as female to engaging with support services. Respondents reported that societal expectations of women – i.e. as needing to be ‘good mothers’ and/or homemakers – still need to be tackled.
- The universal issue reported was a detrimental impact on their mental health.
Carly, a female gambler who contacted GamCare last year, says: “I had been struggling with gambling for around three years. I felt like nobody would understand – everything I had seen said gambling was something for men, not women and not me, but I knew I needed help. My ‘rock bottom’ was… when I lost my home, my job and the relationships that were the most important to me. I knew something had to change, otherwise I would feel like giving up altogether.”
One woman who contacted GamCare, who does not wished to be named, shared the guilt and shame that her gambling impacted on her husband and children: “It’s really complex, the shame you feel – it’s like you’re letting everyone down. My message to other women experiencing harms because of gambling is that you’re not alone. It can happen to anyone, and you shouldn’t be ashamed to ask for help.”
Anna Hemmings, Chief Executive of GamCare, said: “The issues that women are facing are often hidden from support services. Our Women’s Programme has told us that we need to remove barriers for women to access help with gambling related harm, but we also need to ensure that those providing that support are better equipped to help them.
“We must get to grips with the unnecessary shame and stigma women feel around asking for help. Gambling is not just a male activity, and it can affect women in significant, potentially life-changing ways.
“We have already achieved a lot in the first year of this programme, and I’m looking forward to the second year of the programme where we will be spreading the learning to improve support for women.”
GamCare receives funding from the Tampon Tax to deliver their Women’s Programme, working with a nationwide network of organisations who support vulnerable women, raising awareness of how gambling is linked with issues affecting women and helping to better identify women in need and engage them with the right support before issues escalate.
GamCare will continue to strengthen referral pathways into support and treatment for women affected by gambling, as well as continuing to gather lived experience from women across the UK and broadening the evidence-base for treatment that works.
For more information see www.gamcare.org.uk