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Free gambling counselling launches in Wigan
Tuesday 24th June, 2014

Free gambling counselling launches in Wigan
Adam Thomas

A free gambling counselling service has been launched in Wigan Borough as part of the council\'s deal to help communities to support each other.

The new service, which will be delivered by Beacon Counselling, on behalf of GamCare, will support individuals and their families affected by problem gambling by offering free one-to-one counselling, couples counselling and group counselling.

Local resident and former professional rugby player, Adam Thomas, 26, was one of the first to access the service. He began gambling ten years ago and during that time hes lost his house, car, friends and family because of his problem.

I began gambling when I was 16 years old. At the beginning it was more of a social thing, but then it quickly spiralled out of control. Ive tried everything, Gamblers Anonymous, hypnotherapy, rehab. Im not saying theyre not successful; they work for a lot of people, but they weren\'t for me.

With this new service I felt like for the first time in my life I was an individual, like I was being listened to. Before, Id find excuses not to go to counselling, whereas now Im looking forward to my next session. It really has been my saviour.

Research suggests that the economic downturn coupled with the increased availability of online gambling opportunities has led to an increase in problem gambling over recent years, with the latest figures showing that 68 per cent of men and 61 per cent of women in England had participated in gambling activity.

Councillor Terry Halliwell, portfolio holder for customer transformation at Wigan Council, said:

Since the Welfare Reforms were introduced last year weve done a lot of work to prevent residents from getting into debt, by signposting them to responsible lenders such as Credit Unions and helping them manage their money better with free courses. Its not just loan sharks were targeting; weve also started working closely with betting shops to ensure theyre operating responsibly and at the beginning of this year we passed a motion calling on the government to ban Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) altogether.

This new counselling service will complement our existing work perfectly, helping problem gamblers and their families deal with the effects of gambling. Im really pleased that weve decided to launch the service here in Wigan Borough, as Im sure many of our residents will be.

Neil Platt, clinical lead at Beacon Counselling, said: The response since the launch in Liverpool has been overwhelming which just goes to show that there is a real need for this free service. The service is now being extended beyond Liverpool and we are taking referrals from across Merseyside.

To find out more about the service offered by Beacon Counselling Trust visit www.beaconcounsellingtrust.co.uk. Anyone wishing to use the service should contact 0151 321 1099 or the GamCare helpline on 0808 8020 133 (www.gamcare.org.uk) To find out more about The Deal, visit www.wigan.gov.uk/thedeal

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