Adult Support and Protection Scotland: April 2019 to March 2022

This is the first release of annual Adult Support and Protection (ASP) data, in Scotland, and includes national data for financial years 2019/20 - 2021/22.

This document is part of a collection


The definition used at the time of this data collection was:

“An Adult Support & Protection (ASP) referral is when an adult has been referred to a Council ASP Team when the adult is known or believed** to be at risk of harm as defined in Part 1 section 3(1) of the Adult Support & Protection (Scotland) Act 2007. If the referral is made by an organisation or agency, and they have defined the referral as ASP, the referral should be counted. All police referrals marked as relating to vulnerable persons indicating the person may be an adult at risk of harm should be counted and where there are disagreements over the marking then these should be discussed with the police. (**If in any doubt, the adult should be referred to the council).”

In 2021/22 there were an estimated 41,569 ASP referrals in Scotland; this equates to about 9 referrals per 1,000 adult population.

While there has been an increase of around 19% in the estimated number of referrals since 2020/21, this does not necessarily mean there has been an increase in the number of people harmed for the following reasons:

  • one person can be referred multiple times by different agencies and an increase in referrals could be more agencies recognising the same person at risk of harm.
  • ASP referrals only capture those in contact with ASP services and may not include all adults at risk of harm.
  • there may have been an increased awareness on how to make an ASP referral through National ASP Day awareness campaigns and local ASP training and awareness raising.

The number of referrals is an estimated national figure because there is limited consistency between local authorities on their definition of referrals. Some local authorities are known to apply a strict filtering process before recording a referral, while others include a far greater percentage of notifications received in their referral figures. This lack of a clear and consistent definition of what constitutes a ‘referral’ across the local authorities inevitably raises doubts about the validity of the data connected to this part of this collection. The definition of ‘referral’ is included in the development of the ASP minimum data set. The ASP minimum dataset will address these inconsistencies and further information is outlined in the Future Plans section of this report.

Referral source breakdown

Around 28% of referrals came from Police Scotland; around 17% of ASP referrals came from Social Work/Local authority; and around 15% came from NHS/GPs/Scottish Ambulance Service in 2021/22. More referral source breakdowns are available in the supporting excel tables.

Referrals can have multiple sources and the total number of ASP referrals from all referral sources is higher than the number of referrals. One person may also have multiple referrals from different agencies.

Referral outcomes

Actions to protect a person’s wellbeing, property or financial affairs can be taken at any stage. A council has a duty 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, a referral can have four possible outcomes: further Adult Protection action; further non-Adult Protection action; no further action and not known.

In 2021/22, in the majority (51%) of ASP referrals, further Adult Protection action was undertaken. This has increased since 2019/20; where further Adult Protection action was undertaken in 42% of ASP referrals. More details on the other referral outcomes are available in the accompanying excel tables.

The outcome of a referral may not be 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

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