April 14, 2022

Our People - Get to know us

Matt Smith
Our People - Get to know us

In a new series of blogs at Betknowmore UK Head of External Affairs Matt Smith has been chatting with our team for an in depth look at what they do, the impact their work is having and what makes them tick. This week Matt sat down with our Head of Support Services Leanne Downie and started by asking her what her role entails…

The work I do sits within the charity, and I help to oversee its support services. These services include Peer Aid, GOALS (our community outreach programme), New Beginnings (our women only group) and our digital hub.

Since joining Betknowmore UK, I have been doing a lot of work with our GOALS programme ready for a relaunch. As a charity we are driven by lived experience and helping communities which has been a challenge during the pandemic, but we now want to take what we have learnt during the pandemic and adapt our services to ensure we are able to support as many people as possible who are living with gambling harms, which includes raising the impact of gambling harms within communities. 

You’ve previously worked in the charity space before joining us, what made you want to work in this sector?

Given a significant proportion of our lives are spent at work, I have always wanted to work in roles I was passionate about.

I had a great number of years working in hospitality, I love people and making them happy. Customer service is a passion of mine. However, in 2018 I wanted to take my customer service skills and move into the charity sector where I could work for an organisation which aligned with my values, I was able to work for an organisation called Crohn’s & Colitis UK which is very close to my heart.

One of the positives of working for a charity is the overwhelming sense of driving change. It can be stimulating and rewarding work, with a real sense of fulfilment. I am very passionate about the work Betknowmore UK is doing due my own lived experience of gambling harms as an affected other.

Tell us a little about your lived experience of gambling harm, and how it impacted you. Were there any positives that ultimately came from it?

Nothing will ever prepare you for a loved one having a gambling problem. Nothing will prepare you for the legacy harms which, as a loved one, you will experience. 

However, what I have learnt as an affected other is there is no right or wrong way in managing that life changing situation, but what I do now know is that there is help and support for you to come to terms with your own personal situation. Everyone’s experience of a gambling addiction is different and for me I felt ashamed, I felt like I had let them down and my self-esteem was negatively impacted. You feel bad for feeling those emotions when it is seen that you should just be strong and support them, however it’s a journey where everyone has a different map, or in some cases, no map at all.

I was fortunate to have the opportunity to join Betknowmore UK’s Peer Aid programme where I completed a qualification in Peer Support, this inspired me to start an accredited counselling course as well as review my employment. Despite going through several turbulent years of supporting someone with a gambling addiction, I wanted to turn my experience into something positive. https://www.betknowmoreuk.org/services/peer-aid

What are the current projects you are working on?

As well as working on GOALS, I have been involved in getting our new women only support group started. This service is called New Beginnings and it has been great to work with Lisa Walker and the team to develop this service which is really needed for women living with gambling harms. https://www.betknowmoreuk.org/services/new-beginnings

Who inspires you and what is it about them that you like?

My mum, she is the most caring person I know and has always been an inspiration as someone who does the right thing, even when it’s the hardest option. She has always been hard working and I think that is where my work ethic comes from, I hope I make her as proud as she makes me.

Another inspiration is Maya Angelou and her insightful life wisdom and quotes, “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

 Maya is a beacon for someone who overcame adversities and helped to inspire others with her strength. 

Give us a sneak peek behind the scenes of Betknowmore UK, what is it you like about the organisation and what does a typical day look like for you?

Charities are full of inspirational people from different backgrounds, each one with a story to tell. Betknowmore UK is no different, I am surrounded by inspiring, motivated and committed individuals. No day is the same, there is a lot of variety working for a small growing organisation, which is what I like. I love to be kept busy. I am a morning person, so I would usually start my day getting on top of emails, before meetings take over. I am a very creative hands-on person so love to share ideas with colleagues to work together on.

Outside of work what are the things you do for your own health and well-being?

I have a 15-month-old Working Cocker Spaniel called Jura, he takes up a lot of my spare time, but I love him. It’s great to get out for a walk with him, and his little personality is the best, so he is the best tonic for my health and wellbeing. I also love to Hula Hoop, Swim but also binging a good box set with a doughnut -life is all about balance!

What are your goals that you would like to achieve over the next couple of years both in work and in your personal life?

I would love to grow some of our services to cater nationally not just within London Boroughs. I have seen first-hand how impactful Betknowmore UK’s services can be, I hope we can help to make more people feel less isolated by the impact of gambling related harms. Personally, I would like to continue doing more accredited training in counselling and therapeutic techniques as well as convincing my partner we are ready for another dog!



Share this article