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Is Gambling a Youth Safeguarding Issue?

Nick Herbert, Youth Outreach Office for West of England and South Wales, discusses safeguarding in youth gambling. 

Safeguarding is an area that all organisations who work with young people have to take extremely seriously. This is especially true for schools and colleges, who are inspected by Ofsted around their safeguarding provision and how they act to protect young people from harm.

So, is gambling by 11-19-year olds a safeguarding issue? Absoutely!

Without the right context to make an informed choice about gambling, young people are more vulnerable to developing problems with their gambling behaviour. This can lead to harmful consequences, not just for the young person themselves, but for their family and friends.

According to the Gambling Commission, around 55,000 young people aged 11-16 across the UK could already be classified as problem gamblers, with a further 70,000 deemed to be at risk. Recent research from the Commission has shown that 14% of young people have spent their own money on gambling in the past week compared to 13% on alcohol, 4% on cigarettes and 2% on illegal drugs.

Alcohol and illegal drugs would be red flags for a safeguarding alert, so it’s time that gambling is seen in the same light. We know some factors that make a young person more vulnerable to developing gambling problems include:

  • Money problems (e.g. thinking that gambling is the only way out of their debt);
  • Recent loss or bereavement;
  • Having parents who gamble;
  • Patterns of risky behaviour;
  • Low emotional states (e.g. anxiety or depression);
  • Learning difficulties;
  • Past abuse or trauma;
  • Co-morbid addictive behaviour;

Belonging to other vulnerable and at-risk groups will also have safeguarding implications for young people.

The early warning signs and harmful consequences of gambling problems in young people include:

  • Unexplained absences from home / school (truancy);
  • Continual lying about day-to-day movements;
  • Involvement with crime;
  • Constant shortage of money;
  • Neglect of family, friends, health and appearance;
  • Agitation (if unable to gamble);
  • Mood swings and deteriorating mental health.

GamCare offer a range of help and support to anyone who is affected by gambling problems – either their own or someone else’s. You can speak to an Adviser 24 hours a day on Freephone 0808 80 20 133 or web chat via – our team will listen to what’s going on for you, and talk you through all the options available for support. This may be in person, over the phone or online.

We also offer a range of free workshops for young people, and training for the professionals who support them. If you are a teacher, youth worker, or support young people by mentoring etc., get in touch with our team today to see how we can support you.

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