Talk Money, Talk Gambling: How can financial firms help people affected by someone else’s gambling?

By Sharon Collard

Talk Money Week aims to increase people’s sense of financial wellbeing by encouraging them to open up about their personal finances. For people with gambling disorder, feelings of stigma and shame can make this challenging. Added to this, harms that arise from gambling are often hidden and only become visible following major crises such as extreme debt or relationship breakdown. These events also have a devastating impact on family members. This blog looks at how financial firms can help people affected by someone else’s gambling.

For every person with a gambling disorder, between six and ten other people are affected. An estimated 7% of Britain’s adult population (around 3.6m people) have personally experienced negative effects from someone else’s gambling – usually someone in their immediate family – with harms arising from gambling impacting their relationships, mental wellbeing and finances.

The gambling literature highlights ways in which affected others can help and support those with gambling disorder. In Singapore, family members can act on behalf of someone with a gambling disorder and arrange for them to be excluded from gambling venues. In New Zealand, gambling outlets receive guidance encouraging them to do all they can to take notifications from third parties (such as family members or friends) into account, as these are one of the most common indicators of gambling harms.

For UK financial services firms – the focus of our MAGPIE programme – this raises questions about whether they might accept requests from affected others to help reduce the financial harm caused by someone else’s gambling, such as activating a bank card gambling block, setting ATM limits or restricting access to credit. New guidance from the Money Advice Liaison Group and the Money Advice Trust sets out the practical actions that firms can take to manage disclosures of vulnerability such as gambling disorder, including disclosures from carers and other third parties, while also taking GDPR into account (Figure 1).

Figure 1: The CARERS protocol to help frontline staff manage disclosures from carers and third parties (From Vulnerability, GDPR, and disclosure: A practical guide for creditors and advisers)

Equally, affected others may benefit from help and support themselves to protect their money and wellbeing. A Citizens Advice survey found that 69% of affected others had to cover the costs or debts of the gambler – and in some cases felt coerced into this.

In the first year of the MAGPIE programme, we talked to many people with lived experience of gambling harm. One common theme was their desire for financial services firms and other professionals to develop a better understanding of gambling disorder and gambling harm. In the words of one participant: “Banks and financial institutions need to be educated about the illness [of disordered gambling]”. This is one of the areas we will focus on in our second MAGPIE project – a practical guide to help financial services firms better understand and support people affected by gambling.

Information and help for people affected by someone else’s gambling:

Information and help for people with gambling disorder:

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