The nature of gambling-related harms for adults at risk: a review


This scoping review is part of a wider research project focusing on the prevalence of gamblingrelated harm affecting a particular group in society who have often been referred to as vulnerable people and on local authority (LA) practices to help them. While in many circumstances such individuals may be referred to as vulnerable people or individuals (indeed, this term is used in and about the gambling industry [Gambling Review Body, 2001:2]), this report uses the more recent terminology, as defined in English law under the Care Act 2014. Under the Act, the term ‘adult(s) at risk’ is defined as any person aged 18 years and over who:

• has needs for care and support (whether or not the authority is meeting any of those needs); • is experiencing, or is at risk of, abuse or neglect; and

• as a result of those needs is unable to protect himself or herself against the abuse or neglect or the risk of it (s 42 (1) Care Act, 2014).

Our synthesis of the research evidence therefore includes studies of people with dementia, people with mental health problems, people with learning disabilities and other cognitive impairments (such as acquired head injury) who may be affected by gambling-related harm.

This review of the evidence also addresses what is known and not known about possible links between gambling and people who cause harm to adults at risk or vulnerable adults: that is, where people who have harmed adults at risk cite gambling as an explanation for their behaviour, or where others view it as a possible causal or contextual factor. In such circumstances, these individuals may be called the perpetrators of harm or abuse, and may be abusing the trust of an adult at risk to fund their gambling behaviour or addiction in some form. The evidence for non-regulated gambling being used as a means to exploit adults at risk is further explored – through scams, fake lotteries and other activities.

This scoping review is the first part of a wider project, funded by Ridgeway Information Ltd, which has two main stages. The review is followed by interviews with adult safeguarding practitioners and other experts in the care and support of adults at risk (including medical and care professionals) and gambling experts. The semi-structured interviews are currently being conducted (2016- 17). We have also consulted with members of the Social Care Workforce Research Unit’s user and carer advisory group to obtain their perspectives.

The first sections of this review summarise gambling in relation to its popularity within UK society, the prevalence of problem gambling, the policy context, the provision of treatment and the identification of ‘vulnerable’ populations. This contextual section is followed by the scoping review’s methods, findings and discussion.

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