The definition of an investigation used at the time of this data collection was:
“An ASP investigation is a formal investigation conducted and recorded by a council officer; to assess the level of any risk and the nature of harm either suffered or anticipated; to decide whether any immediate or urgent action is required to protect the adult; and to recommend whether an adult protection case conference is required. An adult protection investigation will involve relevant professional staff from other agencies and, unless inappropriate, with the adult at risk and their family.”
Each local authority has their own local processes for managing risk. Therefore, the number of investigations is an estimated national figure because there is limited consistency between local authorities. The updated Code of Practice (2022) refers to inquiries with investigative powers; this investigatory activity is in line with sections 7-10 of the ASP Act.
The investigations described in this section do not include Large Scale Investigations and these are covered in a separate section.
In 2021/22 an estimated 5,656 ASP investigations commenced in Scotland.
Age and Gender breakdown
In 2021/22, about 57% of investigations commenced were for women and 43% were for men which equates to 1.4 per 1,000 adults and 1.1 per 1,000 adults respectively. These rates have been consistent over the last few years.
While around 37% of investigations were for people aged 25-64 and about 18% of investigations were for people aged 85 and over, the population rates for those age groups were 0.7 and 7.5 per 1,000 adults respectively.
When both age and gender are considered, women aged 85 and over had the highest population rate (around 8.4 investigations per 1,000 adults) of those subject to an investigation with men aged over 85 having the second highest population rate (around 6.0 investigations per 1,000 adults).
Of those subject to an investigation where the ethnicity was known, around 97% had a ethnic category of “White”, about 1% had an ethnic category of “Asian, Scottish Asian or British Asian” and the other 2% was a mixture of “African, Caribbean, Black, mixed or multiple ethnic groups or other ethnic groups” in 2021/22.
The 2011 census results described the Scottish population as about 96% “White”; 3% “Asian, Scottish Asian or British Asian” and about 1% having a mixture of “African, Caribbean, Black, mixed or multiple ethnic groups or other ethnic groups”.
19% of those subject to an investigation had an ethnic category of “Not Known” so these percentages should be interpreted with caution.
Main client group breakdown
Based on the categories in this data collection, an investigation can be classed into six possible primary client groups: people with dementia; people with mental health problem; people with a learning disability; people with a physical disability; people who have experienced a substance misuse issue; problems arising from infirmity due to age and other.
“Mental health problem” (19%) and “Infirmity due to age” (18%) were the top primary client categories for people subject to ASP investigations in 2021/22. This is consistent with previous years. Other client groups reported are available in the accompanying excel tables.
ASP data recorded by Scotland’s local authorities did not always map directly to that which the data return requested. In 2019/20, five local authorities did not record “Dementia” as a category on their internal systems. Clients with dementia were instead typically assigned the next most relevant category as applicable: “older people, learning or physical disabilities if they had any, mental health if this was applicable, or other vulnerable people, if none of the other ones applied to the individual.” Given the relatively high populations of the local authorities concerned, it seems likely that the actual national figures for dementia as a primary client group are likely to be higher than those captured by this survey. Since 2019/20 three of the five local authorities have started recording “Dementia” on their internal systems.
Furthermore, this part of the ASP data return is designed to capture only a single main group for each client (although in practice a given individual might fall within multiple client groups). It is clear, however, that some local authorities used systems that do not currently provide any way of distinguishing a single main grouping; instead they include all groups that apply to each client. This can mean a set of values for this category were higher than the actual number of investigations that commenced in the year. For these reasons please use caution when interpreting these figures.
Primary type of harm breakdown
Physical harm was the most common type of harm reported, accounting for one quarter of those subject to adult protection investigation; the next most frequent type of harm reported was “financial” (19% in 2020/21 and 17% in 2021/22).
The 2020/21 increase in the estimated proportion of people subject to an investigation related to self-harm was maintained in 2021/22 (11% in 2019/20, 14% in 2020/21 and 14% in 2021/22). There has also been a reported increase in ‘neglect’ (15% in 2019/20, 14% in 2020/21 and 18% in 2021/22). Other types of harm reported are available in the accompanying excel tables.
There are inconsistencies across local authorities in how types of harm are defined, which has a direct impact on the consistency of data received nationally.
Location of harm breakdown
Most of the reported harm has consistently occurred in individuals’ own homes. Notably, the percentage of investigations relating to harm in individuals’ ‘Own home’ has increased from an estimated 51%, in the previous 2 years, to 60% in 2021/22. ‘Care homes’ are the second most common location reported with 18% of those subject to investigation in 2021/22. Other locations reported are available in the accompanying excel tables.
Actions to protect a person’s wellbeing, property or financial affairs can be taken at any stage. A council has a duty to make inquiries about a person’s wellbeing, property or financial affairs if it knows or believes that the person is an adult at risk and that it might need to intervene in order to protect the person’s wellbeing, property of financial affairs.
Based on the categories in this data collection, an investigation can have four possible outcomes: further Adult Protection action; further non Adult Protection action; no further action and not known.
In 2021/22, the outcomes of ASP investigations that commenced were: further non-Adult Protection action (37%); further Adult Protection action (28%); no further action (30%) and not known (5%).
The outcome of an investigation may be not known at the time of the data collection as the outcome has not been determined yet.
If you, or someone you know, is at risk of harm we would advise contacting your local authority by email or phone and share your concerns – you can do so anonymously. The matter will be dealt with sensitively and confidentially, and support given if needed. You will be able to find details of your local authority on the Getting Help page of the Act Against Harm website.
If you have any queries or feedback about this data release then please e-mail SWStat@gov.scot.
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