Robbie Butler, MLA, and member of the NI Assembly Education Committee introduced the session.

Robbie is also the Chair of the All Party Assembly Group on Reducing Harm Relating to Gambling. Robbie spoke about his passion for mental health issues, and whist the issues around addiction in relation to alcohol and drugs is well publicised, issues around gambling have in the past been unspoken.

Robbie emphasised the need to ‘get upstream’ of gambling and trying to prevent habits forming in young people.

Robbie stressed that the GWL programme was not about placing an additional burden on teachers or schools. It was about addressing serious issues, in a sensitive way, early enough to equip young people with information that they can take with them as they progress through school and life, supported by the GWL programme.

The keynote address was from Barry Fennell and James Grimes, from Gambling with Lives.

The Gambling Commission estimate that 45,000 11–16-year-olds gamble in the UK, with 55,000 children already addicted. The mode and frequency of gambling have changed with online gambling having transformed the industry, and the pervasiveness of gambling marketing has increased participation.

Tragically there are estimated that the number of gambling related suicides is between 250-650 related suicides every year with, along with other specific groups, young people most at risk

Schools Pilot Programme

The programme touches on different areas of learning including: online protections, mental health, economic wellbeing and debt, crime and legislation, the nature of risk and critical marketing.

Previous learning in these areas is not essential but can be built on throughout the programme.

The key objectives of this pilot programme are to highlight:

  • What a gambling disorder is and why it is highly correlated with suicide and disproportionately affects those under 30 years old.
  • That gambling products can cause mental health issues and how their regulation has a significant impact on risk across the population.
  • The normalisation of gambling for young people and its serious impact through new gambling environments, technologies, and marketing strategies.
  • That a multi-agency public health approach is required to reduce risk.

The programme has been created by academics, educational specialists, clinicians, a film-production company and by people harmed by gambling. The pilot is provided at no cost to schools. It has been peer reviewed and developed without any industry influence and is intended to equip young people with the knowledge that they will need to understand the inherent risk of gambling products and to critically respond to gambling marketing.

Read the Gambling with Lives education pack which gives an overview of the programme to teachers. Further information is on their website.

You can make direct contact with the Gambling with Lives contacts as follows:

We would encourage all schools to engage with the programme.