Part of a £750,000 scheme to help young people avoid problem gambling habits has been given to a program that is to be tested in Aberdeen.
Fast Forward is a Scottish charity that has secured the funding to roll out the major initiative over the next three years. The funding results from a campaign by the Minister of Scottish Parliament (MSP) for Aberdeen Central for tougher action to combat problem gambling and tougher action on betting.
Educating young people in Aberdeen
The MSP for Aberdeen Central, Kevin Stewart of the Scottish National Party, welcomes the move and hopes it will enable schools to educate students about the dangers of problem gambling and that it will give young people the tools they need to prevent themselves from getting into large amounts of debt because of gambling addiction.
Fast Forward’s program has a range of resources available online to enable educators to teach young people about the risks associated with gambling addiction. It is understood that these resources will be expanded and the charity will intervene directly in schools to drive the message further home.
Stewart said: “It’s excellent news that Aberdeen will pilot this bold strategy and I hope it brings some comfort to the young people and their parents in this city who have experienced utter misery and massive debt as a result of gambling addiction whilst studying.”
The program is designed to educate young people throughout their school years and well into their higher education, as the charity has identified that giving young people information is the most effective way of providing them with the tools to make educated decisions about gambling.
A grant from GambleAware
The grant from GambleAware will allow the charity to build on the Gambling Education Toolkit that it launched last year. Fast Forward plans to launch a gambling education hub to host even more educational content for educators and students alike, to help spread their gambling awareness message.
The funding will be used to increase the number of resources available, as well as the reach of those resources, by engaging larger numbers of young people.
GambleAware’s director of education, Dr. Jayne Rigbye, said: “We were impressed with the results Fast Forward have already achieved while working with us over the past three years, so we are delighted to be able to scale-up their work to make a real impact across the whole of Scotland. If the work continues to secure the positive, independent evaluations we’ve already seen, then we would hope to replicate this model in England and Wales as soon as practicable.”
Schools, colleges, and higher education
The program seeks to educate not only young people but also those who are surrounded by addiction or vulnerable mental health problems. The scheme will provide training to student welfare staff and student association officers throughout the academic year. The pilot part of this scheme is already underway and will be rolled out across Scotland if it proves to be successful.
Those behind the charity have identified key times in the academic calendar when extra support could be required by both staff and students, and they will seek to accommodate the rise in demand accordingly. University and college representatives throughout the Aberdeen area have welcomed the scheme.
Alastair MacKinnon, the chief executive of Fast Forward, said: “Fast Forward’s goal as a charity is to enable young people to make informed choices about their well-being and to live healthier lifestyles. We are only just beginning to understand the full extent of gambling-related harms and the impact on gamblers and those around them. Ensuring all those who work with Scottish young people are empowered to offer advice about safer gambling and help those who need it find treatment could make a real difference to a generation with more opportunities to gamble than ever before.”
There is a concern that the rise of online gambling makes it even easier to become addicted and to hide the addiction from loved ones. The charity hopes to support a range of customers and families by offering resources that educate young people on how to identify and deal with problem gambling.