Adult Support and Protection (Scotland) Act 2007: guidance for General Practice

Revised guidance to reflect developments in policy, practice and legislation both in the overall context of adult support and protection and in day-to-day activity. It provides information and detail to support practical application of the 2007 Act for GPs and staff in General Practice.

What is Adult Support and Protection ("ASP")?

In 2008 new legislation was introduced to support and protect adults who are at risk of harm – the Adult Support and Protection (Scotland) Act 2007 ("the Act"). The Act requires public bodies to work together to support and protect adults who are unable to safeguard themselves, their property and their rights. Public bodies are required to work together to take steps to decide whether someone is an adult at risk of harm and balance the need to intervene with an adult's right to live as independently as possible.

GPs and General Practice staff are well placed to identify adults at risk of harm and are a vital component in the multiagency arrangements to support and protect where necessary. This guidance is to support GPs and General Practice staff when they may have need to refer to the Act, and should be used in conjunction with the main Adult Support and Protection Code of Practice.

The focus of the Act is to support and protect adults (individuals, aged 16 years or over) who are – or may be - at risk of harm. For children up to 18 years, or up to 21 years if "looked after" see Child Protection Guidance 2021, although to note there is some overlap in legislation and the most appropriate legislative route for the individual must be determined.

There is a "three-point criteria" in Section 3 of the Act to define an adult at risk:

  • those unable to safeguard their own well-being, property, rights or other interests;
  • are at risk of harm; and
  • because they are affected by disability, disorder, illness or infirmity are more vulnerable to being harmed than adults who are not so affected.


  • an adult is not necessarily an adult at risk of harm simply because they have a disability or diagnosis;
  • ASP applies to those with and without mental capacity;
  • ASP is not contingent on capacity assessments as per the Adults with Incapacity (Scotland) Act 2000. Instead, it relies upon an assessment of a person's ability to safeguard themselves within a specific context.
  • ASP can be used alongside the Adults with Incapacity (Scotland) Act 2000 and/or the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003, when circumstances warrant.

You do not have to evidence that the three criteria are met in order to make a referral. Your information may form part of a larger picture. The criteria is that you 'know or believe' an adult is at risk of harm. In this regard, following receipt of an ASP referral, it is ultimately the responsibility of the council to decide whether an adult meets the definition of an adult at risk of harm.

When deciding to make a referral and what information to share, consider what you believe to be relevant and proportionate to the specific concerns you have.



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