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.

Types of Harm

Section 53 states that "harm" includes all harmful conduct and gives the following examples:

  • conduct which causes physical harm;
  • conduct which causes psychological harm (for example by causing fear, alarm or distress);
  • unlawful conduct which appropriates or adversely affects property, rights or interests (for example theft, fraud, embezzlement or extortion);
  • conduct which causes self-harm.

The list is not exhaustive and no category of harm is excluded simply because it is not explicitly listed. In general terms, behaviours that constitute harm to a person can be physical, sexual, psychological, financial, or a combination of these. The harm can be accidental or intentional, as a result of self-neglect, neglect by a carer or caused by self-harm and/or attempted suicide. Other forms of harm can include domestic abuse, gender-based violence, forced marriage, female genital mutilation (FGM), human trafficking, stalking, scam trading and hate crime. Some such cases will result in adults being identified as at risk of harm under the terms of the Act, but this will not always be the case.

The Social Care Institute for Excellence ("SCIE") has a comprehensive downloadable resource illustrating types of harm in detail: Types of abuse: Safeguarding adults.

Evidence of any one indicator should not be taken on its own as proof that abuse is occurring, and, conversely, practitioners must remember that individuals may well be subject to more than one type of abuse at a time, and intersectionality should be considered as a compounding factor. With this in mind, you should consider making further assessments, consider other associated factors, and consider making relevant and appropriate referrals which would be of benefit in supporting and safeguarding the individual concerned.

The SCIE identify some commonly recognised types of 'harm' though note this list is not exhaustive:

Physical harm

Sexual harm

Psychological or emotional harm

Financial or material harm

Modern slavery

Discriminatory harm

Organisational or institutional harm

Neglect or acts of omission


Also see:

NHS inform:


For further detailed explanation of types of harm to consider, you should refer to the main Adult Support and Protection Code of Practice.



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