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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

TFN is published by the Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Mansfield Traquair Centre, 15 Mansfield Place, Edinburgh, EH3 6BB. The Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations (SCVO) is a Scottish Charitable Incorporated Organisation. Registration number SC003558.

How I nearly fell into the gambling trap I work to help others out of

 

Laura Mallis: many of the problems that people bring to the CAB, particularly debt, spring from, or are exacerbated by, issues with gambling

The feedback we receive about this column (which is always very welcome) tells us that people are pleased to read about our policy positions and the general work of our CABs, but you’re perhaps less familiar with the specific projects that we also run and would like to hear more about these.

I manage our Gambling Support Service, which is funded by GambleAware. The project was set up because many of the problems that people bring to the CAB, particularly debt, spring from, or are exacerbated by, issues with gambling.

CABs help anyone who is in that situation, but this project focuses on training our advisers in how to spot the signs of gambling harms in all of their clients, as gambling issues are usually a hidden problem and people are unlikely to disclose they are struggling. Our project trains bureau staff about how to discuss gambling with these clients and help them find the support they need. 

In fact this training is also available, for free, to any organisation in Scotland which wants it. Charities, social groups, churches, colleges – and more. If you work with people who may be affected by gambling harms, we’d love to hear from you. www.cas.org.uk/spotlight/gambling-support-service.

Myself, before I took up this role I knew very little about gambling. Working on this project opened my eyes to a world where it can become a problem that ruins lives. Research tells us that 50% of people can have the odd flutter without any problem. But I tend to think, well what if I’m in the other 50%? It’s just a door I’ve never opened.

That changed last year when I became a first-time mum, which meant 10 months of maternity leave - and the joys of daytime TV. Have you seen it lately? It just bombards you with advert after advert about gambling. At first I found this irritating, and would mute the TV. But you can’t keep doing that and within weeks I found I was humming the jingles.

Spending all day every day at home with just a baby is a strange experience: it does things to you. I started to worry about her future. With the cost of living rising, what kind of start in life could I give her? 

As she slept in my arms, I had access to a whole world of money-spinning options. Ads online, in the paper and constantly on TV, even the betting shop over the road. I felt very isolated, and couldn’t help thinking about how £100k or £50k - or any k - could change everything. Would it really be so wrong to open that door after all?

As it happens, I didn’t. And now I’m back at work and in a better place. But that experience did give me an insight into how easy it can be for anyone to suddenly try to chase a win and perhaps lose a fortune.

I’m writing about this to say to other new mums in a similar position to me, or indeed anyone who is feeling tempted. You’re not alone, and there is support out there.

If you're worried about your - or someone else's - gambling, the National Gambling Support Network’s helpline service is FREE, 24/7, every day: 0808 8020 133. They also have an online chat service: www.begambleaware.org/ngsn.

Laura Mallis is co-ordinator of the Gambling Support Service at Citizens Advice Scotland.

This column was first published in the Herald. www.theherald.co.uk

 

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