Devon county councillors were concerned about the harm that they had witnessed first-hand caused by problem gambling. Whilst Devon County Council (DCC) is not responsible for the direct provision of gambling establishments, the impacts of problem gambling have an impact on spend on services for vulnerable people.
To understand the scope of the challenge, and to understand what might help, scrutiny members undertook a spotlight review. Recognising the role that scrutiny can have in bringing different agencies together to collectively problem solve, the scope of this spotlight review was:
- To understand the underlying causes of problem gambling and the challenges associated with problem gambling.
- To explore the ways in which DCC and partners could work together to prevent people who are at risk of problem gambling reaching crisis point.
- To identify the ways in which DCC and partners could work together to support people in Devon who have gambling addictions.
The spotlight review took place on the 7 August 2018 and was held in the form of a round table discussion with structured questions clustered around three themes:
- Understanding when gambling becomes a problem;
- Identifying support available when someone is struggling with problem gambling.
The findings of the review were particularly focused around the need for reliable and accurate data. Several of the partners in the room committed to working together to better understand the scale of the problem as well as to support services that exist to help people with a gambling addiction.
A year on from this work there have been several developments, although Councillors would like to see more. Particularly notable developments include:
- The Joint Strategic Needs Assessment now includes a detailed section of available data, bringing together information including prevalence, age, demographics, gambling restrictions, types of gambling, risks, impacts of gambling, links to other services, suicide, treatment and support services, national and local responses.
- DCC took part in promoting Responsible Gambling Week in both 2018 and 2019.
- The January 2019 NHS Long Term Plan includes commitments to strengthening public health and prevention, including an element directed at gambling.
- DCC Public Health working with coroners to improve coding in death certification following suicide.
The Committee is committed to continuing to improve services and support for people and their families and anyone whose lives are affected by gambling addiction.