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What works for building awareness of a stigmatised issue?

Learning from GambleAware’s community collaboration  

By Joanna Scott 17 August 2023 4 minute read

With it being a taboo subject, it’s just very hard to break (through) that barrier where people are comfortable talking about it.

Community Resilience Fund project staff member  

From topics as wide-ranging as loneliness to mental health and homelessness, overcoming social and self-stigma to engage people in need of information and support can be a significant challenge for many charities.   

GambleAware, an independent charity that commissions prevention and treatment services throughout Great Britain, is working to address the stigma associated with gambling harms. Stigma is identified as a significant barrier to support-seeking, so GambleAware is working nationally to reduce its prevalence.  

GambleAware’s Community Resilience Fund (CRF) is a grant funding programme that supports novel ideas and ways of engaging seldom heard communities, to offer support and information on gambling harms. The Fund supports 21 organisations, which deliver existing health or social support services in their local communities. Only a handful of these organisations have previous experience in the field of gambling harms, but all have identified it as an issue for their communities. They are being funded to deliver awareness-raising activities and support, alongside existing services offering group sessions, one-to-one support, training and partnership development.   

NPC is working with Ipsos to evaluate this programme. Together with the funded projects, we’re learning more about what works for addressing stigma and increasing public awareness and understanding of gambling harms.  

Here’s what we’ve learned so far:

1. Address stigma among staff and volunteers: A first step is to increase staff and volunteer awareness about gambling harms. Open discussions and training about how gambling harms affect service users can address existing self and social stigma.

People always have some kind of story to do with gambling, but they never had a space in which to speak about it.

CRF project staff member

2. Involve those with lived experience: Engaging individuals who have personal experience of gambling harm in delivery of services (such as delivering training, coaching and mentoring) can add a human touch and promote a more profound understanding of the issue for staff and volunteers.

3. Understand the source of stigma: To tackle stigma, it’s important to know where it stems from. For example, some of the funded organisations have reported hurdles in reaching out to cultures where gambling is considered a taboo subject.Collaborating with faith and community leaders has shown promise in advocating awareness in a culturally appropriate and sensitive manner.

4. Collaborate: Both a top-down and bottom-up approach is needed to change the conversation on gambling harms. Projects can benefit from aligning with national and regional support services, while also cultivating trust and credibility locally. However, this can take time, especially for organisations that are new to this topic. 

I can have an open conversation with someone who is misusing drugs or alcohol. But the second you speak about gambling [they close down].

CRF project staff member 

5. Find another way in: The funded projects are learning that individuals may not be ready to speak about gambling harms directly or seek therapeutic support. Instead, offering practical support and information concerning the areas of life impacted by harmful gambling – such as mental health, debt, and abuse – provides a more accessible way to reach people impacted by gambling harms.

GambleAware will continue funding these projects until March 2024. With the support of NPC and Ipsos, they will continue to share emerging evidence about what works, and how to measure effectiveness of different approaches. 

You can find out more about GambleAware’s stigma campaign on their website 

This is the second in a series of blogs sharing learning from GambleAware’s Community Resilience Fund. You may also be interested in the previous blog, which explores how charities can minimise evaluation burden whilst maximising learning. 


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