NatWest partners GamCare for bank branch counselling pilot

1 November 2019

British high street banking chain NatWest will work with gambling support charity GamCare to launch a pilot programme where it will offer counselling sessions to those affected by problem gambing in its branches.

The pilot programme will be rolled out in 13 NatWest branches across London, the Midlands and the South East and Eastern regions of England. It will be available to all members of the public, whether or not they have an account with NatWest.

“The Gambling Commission estimate that there are around 340,000 adult problem gamblers in Great Britain, with a further 550,000 people considered to be suffering moderate harm as a result of gambling,” NatWest’s chief executive of personal banking, Les Matheson, said. “It is therefore more important than ever that support is easily available for those who need it. That is why I am immensely proud to be partnering with GamCare to bring this specialised support to the high street.

“I also want to ensure we are best able to support customers worried about how much they're spending on gambling, so I am introducing further specialised training for our teams and giving customers the tools to take greater control of their spending through our gambling block on credit cards.”

GamCare chief executive Anna Hemmings described the partnership as "a fantastic step" towards achieving the charity's goal of increasing access to problem gambling treatment.

“To be able to offer our support on the high street in NatWest branches will make our help more available to the people that need it most, reducing traditional barriers to access," Hemmings said. “GamCare’s training to NatWest specialist teams will also help to ensure that they can identify anyone affected by gambling problems – their own or someone else’s – compassionately and effectively, swiftly referring them to the most appropriate support.

“These significant steps, alongside NatWest’s transaction blocking feature, are equipping problem gamblers across the UK with more tools and greater access to services to support their recovery.”

The launch of the counselling service will be accompanied by the introduction of new controls for customers, such as the option to block gambling transactions on its credit cards.

The feature will be rolled out on NatWest's mobile banking app, and comes after a number of other banks rolled out a similar solution. Banking start-ups Monzo and Starling Bank were the first to do so, with Barclays becoming the first high street bank to roll-out transaction blocking in December last year. In January this year, Lloyds Bank, Santander and Royal Bank of Scotland, which owns NatWest, revealed they were considering launching similar features.

Nicky Morgan, the outgoing Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, said she was encouraged by NatWest's efforts to limit the effects of gambling-related harm.

"While millions of people gamble responsibly, protecting people from the risks of problem gambling is vital,” Morgan said. "The government has been clear to all businesses that have connections to gambling, including bookmakers, major high street banks and social media platforms that they must be socially responsible and use the power of technology and data to help people manage their spending and protect them from gambling related harm.

"So, I welcome these measures from Natwest and Gamcare to help more people. I will closely monitor NatWest's progress and I urge others in the banking sector to follow suit for the good of their customers."

Earlier this month, GamCare announced that the National Gambling Helpline, where trained advisors providing callers with advice on gambling-related problems and connect them with local treatment services, is to extend its hours and become a 24-hour service.