Adult support and protection

All adults at risk of harm have the right to be safe and protected. 

The Adult Support and Protection (Scotland) Act 2007 is designed to protect those adults who are unable to safeguard their own interests and are at risk of harm because they are affected by:

  • disability
  • mental disorder
  • illness
  • physical or mental infirmity

Harm means all harm including self-harm and neglect.

The Act requires councils and a range of public bodies to work together to support and protect adults who are unable to safeguard themselves, their property and their rights.

We enable and support those with responsibilities under the Act to carry out their duties effectively. We do this by ensuring adult support and protection legislation, policy and practice is improved and effective.

More information about how we are strengthening support for adult support and protection is in the following sections:

Improvement plan

We published our Adult Support and Protection Improvement Plan 2019-2022 in October 2019. The plan covers:

  • existing improvement activity
  • assurance
  • governance
  • data and information legislation
  • policy and guidance
  • practice improvement
  • prevention

Adult Protection Committees

The Adult Support and Protection (Scotland) Act 2007 set up multi-agency Adult Protection Committees (APCs) in every council area. The committee monitors and reviews what is happening locally to safeguard adults. It is made up of senior staff from many of the agencies involved in protecting adults who may be at risk.

These include staff from the council, NHS and Police Scotland.

APCs are chaired by independent convenors, who cannot be members or officers of the council. APCs have a central role to play in taking an overview of adult protection activity in each council area and making recommendations to ensure that adult protection activity is effective. APCs have a range of duties, which include:

  • reviewing adult protection practices
  • improving co-operation
  • improving skills and knowledge
  • providing information and advice
  • promoting good communication

Adult Protection Committees are required to submit a report to Scottish Ministers every two years. We published guidance for Adult Protection Committees in July 2022.

Inspection programme

As part of our improvement plan for adult support and protection, a multi-agency inspection programme commenced at the start of 2020. The inspection programme provides a level of scrutiny to increase assurance that adults at risk are being protected from all types of harm, and also identifies further improvement action.

As of April 2023, 23 inspection reports and an Interim Overview Report have been published on the Care Inspectorate website.

Learning reviews

Learning reviews are multi-agency reviews relating to the protection of adults at risk of harm, helping to facilitate learning through consideration of the circumstances where an adult at risk has died or been significantly harmed.

We worked with partners to develop the learning review guidance, which was published in May 2022.

Adult Support and Protection Code of Practice and guidance for general practice

We published an updated Code of Practice in July 2022, ensuring any changes involved adults at risk of harm in the discussions, planning and decision making regarding their care, treatment and support.

The guidance for General Practice was also updated and published in July 2022.

National Implementation Group

An adult support and protection National Implementation Group has been formed to support both national and local implementation of the revisions to the Code of Practice. Membership comprises a wide range of stakeholder organisations who will work together between 2022 and 2024.

National Strategic Forum

We formed the Adult Support and Protection National Strategic Forum in November 2018. The forum is providing advice on the development of the improvement plan and meets twice per year.

Scottish Mental Health Law Review

There has been a review of the adult support and protection legislation alongside mental health and adults with incapacity law. The aim of the review was to consider whether the adult support and protection legislation is compatible with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the European Court of Human Rights. The review also considers what is needed to address any incompatibilities, so that Scotland continues to meet its international commitments in terms of human rights.

The final report was published in September 2022 and a summary report is also available. You can read the reports on the Scottish Mental Health Law Review website.

More information

The Act Against Harm website provides a number of resources and information on who to contact if you know or believe someone may be at risk of harm.

Back to top