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Public Health and Safeguarding toolkit

This toolkit provides examples of the materials that can assist in developing this expanding area of work.

We have published a briefing paper for local authorities and local public health providers setting out a rationale for gambling harm being treated as a public health issue.

We have also published a quick guide for licensing, public health and related teams to explain the benefits of them working together to address gambling issues. 

The LGA and Public Health England have published a guidance note  which explains the need for a ‘whole council’ approach to tackling gambling related harm.

The Commission in collaboration with the Responsible Gambling Strategy Board and Gamble Aware have published a report outlining an approach to understanding the full range of harms gambling can have on individuals, families, communities and society.

Problem gambling is less visible than other addictions such as alcohol and drugs but it is:

  • Associated with a range of other addictions and health related issues. It is important that a gambling related problem is diagnosed and treated at the same time as other issues. 
  • also likely to affect not just the individuals concerned but those around them, whether that’s the family who find themselves without enough money for the week’s essentials or the partner who suffers abuse.

Gambling is a subject which is increasingly interesting public health teams. The Responsible Gambling Strategy Board published a paper in December 2016 on gambling related harm as a public health issue.

The Commission, along with the LGA and Public Health England has written to Directors of Public Health in England encouraging them to engage with the consultation each LA is conducting to revise their Statement of Gambling Policy and more broadly involve in a wider engagement on problem gambling and the dissemination of good practice to local health teams. A similar letter, jointly signed with the WLGA, has also been sent to Directors of Public Health in Wales.

The Government has now set out its priorities for Public Health England for 2018/19. For the first time this includes reference to gambling harm and the letter explains as follows:
‘Public Health England will inform and support action on gambling related harm as part of the follow to the Department for Digital Culture Media and Sport–led review of gaming machines and social responsibility’.


Evidence indicates that particular groups are more vulnerable to gambling related harm than others. Examples include those with mental health issues, homeless people, those with other addictive behaviours and those in areas of multiple deprivation and immigrants. (This is not a comprehensive list.)

GambleAware have published research to further our understanding of the relationship between gambling and homelessness, and to develop three instruments to be used by practitioners working with the homeless which can assist them in identifying and responding to gambling-related harms in this population.

Citizens Advice have published research into the causes and impacts of problem gambling and gambling related harms based on interviews with problem gamblers and those affected by their behaviour. The study estimates that for every problem gambler, between 6 and 10 additional people (such as friends, family or co-workers) are directly affected.  Over a third of families with children interviewed couldn’t afford essentials as a result of a family member’s gambling and gambling support services are not always suitable or easily accessible and the levels of funding are insufficient to meet the need.

We have circulated a summary of the Scottish Health Boards Report highlighting key gambling data by health board area to licensing boards in Scotland (which are licensing authorities under the Gambling Act 2005). This draws on data from the Scottish Health Survey 2016 and is intended to be used by licensing boards to help inform their statements of gambling policy.

What Local Authorities are doing

Public Health England (Yorkshire and Humberside) held a gambling masterclass looking at the different ways in which problem gambling and public health relate to each other. The presentations and
associated documents are available on their website.

Research in Leeds City Council discovered the following:

  • At least 13 relevant Leeds services able to provide some advice and guidance on problem gambling including generic services (eg. Citizens Advice) , targeted support groups and specialist addictions and recovery services 
  • However there was a lack of join-up on ‘gambling related support’ which contrasts with strong integration of support/referrals networks across other vulnerable group needs in Leeds
  • Support services regularly work with clients affected by gambling related harm – these are often ‘co-morbid’ with other challenges (eg. alcohol or drug addiction) and recovery support
  • The research also revealed that there was a lack any screening or assessment tools for gambling-related harm in the vast majority of agencies. It was also very rare for clients to self-declare a gambling issue.

In Brighton and Hove Public Health contributed significantly in the development of a Local Area Profile, or heat map, to identify social groups and geographic locations where gambling risk/vulnerability is greatest. 

Harrow Council have used their website to highlight the issue of problem gambling and where citizens can obtain help and support.

In Tower Hamlets the Public Health team intervened in the previous consultation on their Statement, recognising the following as a part of their submission:

‘For health and social care professionals, and even the family and friends of at risk or problem gamblers, the challenge of problem gambling is that it is not easily detectable. It is often described as the ‘hidden addiction’. Problem gamblers are far more likely to present with financial, health and relationship issues before an addiction to problem gambling is recognised.’    

Newport Citizens Advice have published a financial capability toolkit which provides guidance and information to problem gambling clients.

The second chapter of the Chief Medical Officer for Wales 2017/18 report Gambling with our Health, focuses on the emerging public health issue in Wales of gambling related harm.

Wirral Public Health’s annual report for 2017/18 is going to be centred around the theme of problem gambling.
As the public health team state ‘In order to understand how this issue affects people locally, it is important that we speak to those affected. Therefore we would like to speak to local residents in Wirral who may be affected by this issue whether this is someone currently problem gambling or has been an issue for them in the past.’


Sheffield Safeguarding Board are one example of a local authority who have developed materials for use both by gambling operators and other agencies concerned with protecting the young and vulnerable. Their toolkit includes an introductory leaflet on the issue, a risk assessment tool and a description of what a safeguarding coordinators role would entail.     

Additional reading