Plea to help vulnerable adults at risk of harm

More than 700 referrals made every week.

People are being asked to keep an eye out for vulnerable adults in their local communities amid concerns the pandemic has left some people more isolated.

Across Scotland around 750 referrals are made a week to Adult Support and Protection teams and this has risen to approximately 780 in the last six months. One in seven referrals leads to an Adult Protection Investigation, but in cases where a full investigation is not needed, a referral can still mean other steps can be taken to ensure the person is supported and protected.

On National Adult Support and Protection Day (20 Feb), members of the public are being asked to keep an eye out for things that don’t look right and report any concerns.

Minister for Social Care Kevin Stewart said:

“We can all think of someone we know who we worry about sometimes; such as a friend, family member or neighbour. During the pandemic, social workers have been going above and beyond to make sure that reports of concerns about adults who are vulnerable have been followed up.

“We know adults are most commonly at risk of physical harm or financial exploitation, but adult protection can include everything from sexual harm to psychological harm; self-harm to neglect or self-neglect – when people struggle to take care of themselves.

“Making an adult protection referral can help ensure serious situations are investigated, or can just trigger a bit of attention and help for those who need it.”

John Paterson, Chair of the National Adult Support and Protection Scotland Independent Convenors’ Group said:

“COVID-19 has had an impact on many people’s well-being and mental health and left some people more isolated than ever before. As we are emerging from the pandemic, we are mindful of the crucial role our communities play in safeguarding.

“Just like with the protection of children, Adult Support and Protection is important every day of the year and we want to ensure that the right supports are in place to protect people who are unable to keep themselves, their money, or their belongings safe.”

“An adult protection referral can also be a good sign that someone needs a bit of support to stay safe, and can stop things getting worse. If something doesn’t seem right, you can help by making an adult protection referral. We can only act on concerns that are known about.

“Adult protection is everyone’s business and every member of our community is due our consideration and protection. You might provide the vital piece in the jigsaw that helps keep someone safe. If you see something, say something.”


Contact details for where to make an adult protection referral in your local area can be found here: Home - Act Against Harm.

Although there is volatility in the figures, there has been a general upward trend in Adult Protection Referrals since May 2020. The data is based upon definitions which vary slightly across the country, but fortnightly reporting of referrals indicates an upward trend over the last year.

Because of differences in data and reporting, it’s difficult to compare these figures to pre-pandemic figures


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