Social Work is Neglecting Problem Gambling

 It is now well established that problem gambling is linked to many individual and social problems including; depression, suicide, significant debt, bankruptcy, family conflict, domestic violence, neglect and maltreatment of children, and offending. One expert has described the impact of problem gambling on children and families as a 'social chernobyl' (Darbyshire 2005). Social work is a profession which is ostensibly concerned with the problems faced by vulnerable people and families, and with many of the issues listed above. Yet in the UK the social work profession has been almost silent on the issue of problem gambling. Other authors have noted the lack of training for social workers in relation to addictions (Galvani and Hughes 2010). This is beginning to change in relation to drug and alcohol issues. Yet, perhaps because there are as yet very few statutory services for people with gambling problems, the issue does not feature in most social work training programmes, and few social workers ask about this issue when conducting assessments.

There are opportunities to change this. The current joint chair of the new national college of social work has previously called for action by local authorities on this issue, including screening by social care agencies for gambling problems (May Chahal 2007). A 2011 consultation by Skills for Care on the proposed national occupational standards (NOS)  for gambling related harm shows a growing awareness that the whole of the social care workforce needs a better understanding of the issues.

It is now important that action is taken so that both the training and practice of the social care workforce reflect the knowledge and understanding which we now  have of the seriousness of gambling related harm and its links to other personal and social problems.

Jim Rogers Senior Lecturer Health and Social Care University of Lincoln

References

Darbyshire, P. 2005. Message from Australia to UK: Think about what you are really gambling with. Journal of Child Health Care 9: 5.

Galvani, S. and Hughes, N. 2010. Working with Alcohol and Drug Use: Exploring the knowledge and attitudes of social work students. British Journal of Social Work 40: 946-962.

May-Chahal, C., Volberg, R., Forrest, D., Bunkle, P., Collins, P., Paylor, I., Wilson, A. 2007. Scoping Study for A UK Gambling Act 2005 Impact Assessment Framework http://www.culture.gov.uk/reference_library/research_and_statistics/4864.aspx

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