A GamCare and Beacon Counselling problem gambling screening pilot in Cheshire has won a Howard League for Penal Reform National Community Award in the Policing and Adults category.
The awards celebrate initiatives that work to promote lasting solutions to crime and make communities safer.
Funded by GamCare and working with Mitie Care and Custody and Cheshire Constabulary, Beacon Counselling Trust trained over 250 staff in three custody suites across Cheshire and the wider criminal justice system to raise awareness and screen for problem gambling at the point of arrest. Staff were also trained to refer into local support and treatment services. 13% of the 760 arrestees screened during the pilot provided a positive response, which is around 13 times higher than levels of problem gambling in the population of Great Britain as a whole.
Mike Kenward, Development Director at GamCare, says: “When a person is arrested and processed via a custody suite they will be routinely screened for drug and alcohol issues, however there is currently no standard screening for those presenting with problem gambling issues. We know from international evidence that there is likely to be a high percentage of people within the criminal justice system who are at-risk or struggling with problem gambling, and it is vital to address this.”
Neil Platt, Clinical Director at Beacon Counselling Trust, says: “This diversion pathway provides a unique opportunity to offer a restorative sanction for the offender – a chance to educate, counsel and rehabilitate in order to reduce the cycle of reoffending.”
The Gambling Commission estimates that there are approximately 430,000 problem gamblers in Great Britain, and around 2 million more people who are at risk of developing problems with gambling. Around 1% of the people reaching out for support through the National Gambling HelpLine, operated by GamCare, mention that they have resorted to criminal activity to fund their gambling.
As well as continuing its work in prisons and with probation services, GamCare is now seeking to expand screening pilots into other areas of Great Britain and would like to connect with other organisations looking to collaborate. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.