For Professionals

In order to protect adults from harm it is important we work together. Professionals need to work with adults and their families as well as in partnership with other agencies, including Police and Health.

Most adults are able to protect themselves from harm and make choices about their own lives. The Adult Support and Protection Act recognises that some adults who are elderly and frail, or who have learning or physical disabilities or mental health problems may be at greater risk of harm, abuse or exploitation.

The advice to all professionals is that if you are worried that an adult may be at risk of harm make a referral to duty social work so the situation can be assessed.

If you or someone you know is being harmed - tell someone about it as soon as possible.  Some adults at risk can be harmed by other people or by their own actions.  A person being harmed may be too frightened or worried to tell someone else.  You must speak up on their behalf.

Human Rights are everyone's right - We all have the right to live in a safe, secure community free from exploitation and harm.  However, some of us live in fear, unable to speak out.  Some people need help to ensure their right to live in safety, with good care and support.  Adults at risk deserve support and protection, respect and care.

Adult Support and Protection Act 

The Adult Support and Protection (Scotland) Act 2007 is a piece of legislation designed to protect people from being harmed.

This is because some people may find it more difficult to stop harm happening to them. The Act calls people in this situation 'adults at risk'.

The Act defines adults at risk as people aged 16 years or over who:

  • are unable to safeguard themselves, their property (their home, the things they own), their rights or other interests;
  • are at risk of harm; and
  • because they are affected by disability, mental disorder, illness or physical or mental infirmity, are more vulnerable to being harmed than others who are not so affected.

Having a particular condition such as a learning disability or a mental health problem does not automatically mean an adult is at risk. Someone can have a disability and be perfectly able to look after themselves. For an adult to be considered at risk, all three parts of the definition must be met.  However, decisions about the three point test are the responsibility of Social Work Services. 

Any intervention in an individual's affairs should provide benefit to the individual, and should be the least restrictive option.

    Information about the Adult Support and Protection Act

    In the case of adults, they may be being abused because they cannot safeguard their own wellbeing, property, rights or interests, putting them at risk of harm. Alternatively, they may be affected by a physical or mental disability, illness or infirmity making them more vulnerable to being harmed.

    An adult is at risk of harm if:

    • another person's conduct is causing or is likely to cause the adult to be harmed, or
    • the adult is engaging or is likely to engage in conduct which is likely to cause self-harm.
    Harm includes all harmful conduct
    • conduct which causes physical harm
    • conduct which causes psychological harm (e.g. by causing fear, alarm and distress)
    • unlawful conduct which appropriates or adversely affects property, rights or interests (e.g. theft, fraud, embezzlement or extortion)
    • conduct which causes 'self-harm'

    We all have a responsibility to report whether we 'know or believe' an adult to be at risk of harm.

    Any assessment must consider:

    • the wishes and feelings of the adult at risk
    • the views of other significant individuals, such as the adult's nearest relative; their primary carer, guardian, or attorney; or any other person with an interest in the adult's well-being or estate;
    • providing the adult with the relevant information and support to enable them to participate as fully as possible;
    • the importance of ensuring that the adult is not treated less favourably than another adult in a comparable situation; and
    • the adult's abilities, background and characteristics (including their age, gender, sexual orientation, religious persuasion, racial origin, ethnic group and cultural and linguistic heritage).  (Part1 of the Adult Support and Protection Act (Scotland) 2007.

    Who to Contact

    If you think an adult is at risk or being neglected a referral can be made to the following social work practice teams (office hours) and the Social Care Emergency Team out-of-office hours: children and families ages 0 - 16, adults aged 16 to 64; and older people aged 65 plus.

    Adult Social Care Enquiry Team

    Monday to Thursday (Office Hours)  8.30am - 5pm

    Friday 8.30am - 4pm

    • Tel: 01506 284848


    Outside office hours

    Social Care Emergency Team

    • Tel: 01506 281028/9

    Broxburn Social Work Centre (Adult Services Age 16-65)

    • Tel: 01506 284440

    Bathgate Social Work Centre (Older People's Services 65+)

    • Tel: 01506 284700

    Livingston Social Work Centre(Adult Services Age 16-65)

    • Tel: 01506 282252


    • Tel: 101
    • Tel: in an emergency call 999

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