There is an alarming lack of problem gambling data collected across most of Northern Ireland, CARE in Northern Ireland can reveal today.
Research by the public policy charity showed that only one in five Health and Social Care Trusts collect data on the number of problem gamblers in their respective areas.
According to the freedom of information responses, only Southern Trust holds such data and it showed that over the last three years, 72 people have sought help for gambling addiction.
In contrast, the four other trusts were unable to provide any and the research also showed that the Department of Health does not hold this information centrally.
Meanwhile none of the trusts had any information on the number of people seeking medical help for problem gambling.
The lack of accurate information on the number of problem gamblers is hampering policymakers from effective responses to the challenge, CARE in NI warned today.
It also suggests that the challenge of gambling addiction is still not being taken as seriously as it should.
Previous research by the Department of Communities showed that NI has the highest rate of problem gambling prevalence in the UK, with 2.3% of adults in NI found to be problem gamblers. This is compared to an equivalent figure of 0.5% in England.
On Monday (24 June), NHS England announced it was introducing a specialist clinic for children suffering from a gambling problem. The NHS is planning a total of 14 clinics in England to help adults and children.
But Northern Ireland does not have a single clinic to help those who need it, despite the prevalence of problem gambling here in comparison to England.
Belfast City Councillor, John Kyle said:
“I have written to the Department of Health and the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust to ask them to collect data on the number of individuals suffering from gambling addiction in Northern Ireland.
“It is imperative such data is collected so that effective policy can be developed to help those suffering from gambling addiction in Northern Ireland.
“Northern Ireland is failing those who are suffering from problem gambling.
“As a GP, I witnessed first-hand the impact problem gambling can have in people’s lives.
“We have legislation which is not fit for purpose, services which are not available to those who are coming from the poorest backgrounds and completely insufficient data on the extent of the problem we have in this area.
“This is yet another area where we badly need action but cannot have it without the NI Executive in operation.”
Mark Baillie, CARE NI’s Public Policy Officer said:
“We often hear of the need to develop ‘evidence-based policy.’
“We know Northern Ireland has a particular problem with problem gambling, but we are completely in the dark as to how many people are seeking help from the NHS or the extent of services which are available for those suffering from such addictions.
“In this instance, we need the Department of Health and the Health and Social Care Trusts to collect this data so policy makers can properly respond to this problem in Northern Ireland.
“Law and policy on gambling in Northern Ireland is currently failing.
“Real people are suffering as a consequence and in some cases tragically we have seen individuals engage in criminality or even go so far as taking their own lives.
“It’s absolutely clear we need urgent action to be taken, before the challenge gets any worse.”
Notes to editors:
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CARE is a well-established mainstream Christian charity providing resources and helping to bring Christian insight and experience to matters of public policy and practical caring initiatives. CARE is represented in the UK Parliaments and Assemblies.
On Monday (24 June), NHS England announced it was to open a specialist problem gambling clinic for young people: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-48723482
In 2017 research by the Department of Communities showed NI had a gambling prevalence rate four times higher than the equivalent in England: https://care.org.uk/news/latest-news/new-report-shows-northern-ireland-has-more-four-times-many-problem-gamblers-england
CARE in Northern Ireland has previously called for more to be done to address problem gambling in NI: https://care.org.uk/news/latest-news/blog-we-must-reform-our-outdated-gambling-laws
Great Britain recently introduced a new £2 maximum stake on FOBTs but it has no legal force in NI: https://care.org.uk/news/latest-news/northern-ireland-misses-out-stake-slashed-gb-betting-machines
Some of the UK’s biggest bookmakers recently said they’d give more money to tackle problem gambling, but NI will still likely miss out: https://care.org.uk/news/latest-news/ni-miss-out-bookies-increase-funding-tackle-problem-gambling