Aston University completes study into understanding effects of council tenants’ harmful gambling

  • The University worked with Birmingham City Council on the project
  • It aims to help prevent tenancy loss as a result of harmful gambling
  • Recommendations include creating a regional harmful gambling
    strategy board.

The Centre for Personal Financial Wellbeing [2] at Aston University has
completed a two-year project with Birmingham City Council (BCC)
exploring in depth the connections between harmful gambling and tenancy
security – the first study of its kind in the UK.

It found evidence that problem gamblers are twice as likely (4 in 10 are
likely to be rent arears) to be in significant rent arrears than other
BCC tenants who gamble (at 2 in 10), but that harmful gambling is a
hidden and stigmatised issue and one which tenants are unlikely to
disclose to their landlord.

80% of those experiencing the effects of harmful gambling say that they
have had to borrow money to meet their basic living expenses in the last
2 years (compared to 50% of others who say they are occasional
gamblers).  More than a third (37%) of problem gamblers said they had
had to use payday loans or loan sharks to fund their living costs
including rent. This creates significant increased risk this behaviour
will directly contribute to them losing their homes.

This behaviour was shown not just to affect not just the gambler. A
third of ‘affected others’ (31%) say that gambling behaviour in
their household had directly led to them not being able to pay their

BCC had identified harmful gambling behaviours as a key and growing
factor in tenancy loss. They wished to understand these further and
enact any specific changes in their procedures and processes that may
help reduce the risk of tenancy loss related to harmful gambling

The aim of the project was to support the Council in the development of
further strategies they, and other housing providers, can adopt to help
reduce tenancy loss due to harmful gambling. It was also aiming to
enhance their understanding of the impact of harmful gambling practices
in the lives of their tenant population and those affected others who
may inhabit one of their properties, with particular focus on the key
financial decisions they make.

The end report’s recommendations include increasing the collaboration
with local support agencies, establishing specific regional strategies
to complement national work in this area, providing enhanced training
for staff and also for tenants, integrating harmful gambling reporting
more fully into housing management systems and creating clear support
referral pathways.

It also highlights the need for cross-sector collaboration and ongoing
evaluation of interventions. By mapping interventions against the
Council tenant journey, the report offers a framework for monitoring and
improving harmful gambling support strategies.

Professor Andy Lymer [3], director of the Centre for Personal Financial
Wellbeing at Aston University who undertook this work with BCC, said:

“The overarching aims of this project were about helping BCC to better
understand the effects of harmful gambling experienced by their tenants
and putting in place improvements to systems to support and help prevent
tenancy loss as a result of harmful gambling. Consequently, the data and
analysis in this report is very much focused on the experiences and
views of the Authority’s tenants.

“However, many of the internal recommendations would be equally
applicable to other landlord councils or  social housing providers who
might face similar organisational challenges, and also critically the
same issues around hidden and stigmatised harmful gambling behaviours
and barriers to tenants seeking support.

“Beyond social housing providers, this project also illustrates how
other agencies like support charities and community groups can work
collaboratively with councils to address the complex challenge of
managing the effects of harmful gambling which overlaps with areas of
health, wellbeing and financial inclusion.”

Dr Halima Sacranie, the Centre’s leading researcher on the project,

“It is critical to develop a relationship with a local support agency,
like Aquarius in Birmingham’s case as their local provider, to work
collaboratively around awareness, gambling training, and a clear
referral pathway for support.

“We propose a traffic light system to gauge risk levels and match
interventions accordingly, such as awareness campaigns and support

“We’ve outlined a framework for Birmingham City Council to enhance and
evaluate these interventions, suggesting key performance indicators for
monitoring progress. This includes a tailored strategy, mapping
interventions onto the Council tenant journey to create a cohesive
system of awareness and support.”

This work is ongoing, and lessons learned are also now being rolled out
to other councils and social housing providers. The University team
welcomes approaches by anyone who would like to discuss this work

To read the full report, click here [4].

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