Recent data shows that only 20% (one of the five) of the Health and Social Care Trusts on the territory of Northern Ireland has data records related to gambling addicts. The massive failure in policy was revealed after the Christian Action Research and Education charity organisation filed a number of Freedom of Information requests.
The responses to the requests have shown that the Southern Health and Social Care Trust was the only one that had records of 72 people who had sought help to deal with their problem gambling over the previous three years. It became clear that the other trusts held no data about the people who have sought their help while battling their gambling addiction, and the Department of Health could not provide statistics about that.
The five trusts revealed that they lacked the policy ways to address and treat problem gambling, as people are instead pushed to seek help from community and voluntary services or other non-statutory facilities. The trusts also alarmed about lack of provision under which their employees to get adequate training to be able to identify and treat gambling addicts.
The Southern Health and Social Care Trust was the only trust which was able to identify some programmes aimed at staff members’ training. The Northern Health and Social Care Trust, which is the largest one by population served, explained that it no training to medical professionals is provided when it comes to problem gambling treatment.
Problem Gambling Issues in Northern Ireland Need to Be Taken Seriously by Department of Health
A representative of the Northern Health and Social Care Trust expressed concern over the issue, saying they were also urged to develop policy based on actual evidence. They also shared that they were aware of the fact that Northern Ireland has a problem with rising gambling addiction rates but they were fully unaware how many people were addressing the National Health Service (NHS) to get help.
The Trust’s representative further shared they needed both the trusts and the department to collect actual data, so lawmakers and policymakers to respond to the problem adequately. The issue once again highlighted the fact that gambling policies in Northern Ireland are currently failing to address the constantly increasing gambling addiction rates.
In 2017, the Department for Communities published a report which showed that Northern Ireland featured the highest rate of problem gambling in the entire UK, as 2.3% of individuals over 18 years old were categorised as gambling addicts. In comparison, the percentage rate in England was found to be 0.5% at the time.
Oisin McConville, former GAA player who has struggled with gambling addiction himself, urged the local health trusts to do more to protect problem gamblers. According to him, neither the Department of Health nor the health trusts actually take compulsive gambling seriously enough. He, however, believes that something should be done to address the constantly rising problem gambling rates which do actual damage to local people’s lives.