People arriving from Ukraine - risk and need: public protection guidance

Guidance for all practitioners involved in safeguarding of children and adults who are arriving in Scotland from Ukraine to identify and respond to risk and need.

Adult support and protection

Protection of adults

The Adult Support and Protection (Scotland) Act 2007 (“the 2007 Act”) is designed to protect people (aged 16 years or over) who are at risk of harm because they are affected by disability, mental disorder, illness,  physical or mental infirmity.  

The Act provides ways of protecting adults at risk of harm. Behaviours that constitute ‘harm’ to a person can be physical, sexual, psychological, financial, or a combination of these. ‘Harm’ also includes self-harm, neglect, and self-neglect.

The harm can be accidental, intentional, or as a result of self-neglect or neglect by a carer.

Harm can happen anywhere, including: within a private home; in hospital or a care home; at work; or in a public place.

The 2007 Act places a duty on local authorities to make inquiries about a person's well-being and 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 well-being, property or financial affairs.

An adult (aged 16 years or over) is defined as being at risk of harm where they are: 

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

In this context an adult is at risk of harm if another person's conduct is causing, or is likely to cause, the adult to be harmed; or the adult is engaging, or is likely to engage, in conduct which causes, or is likely to cause, self-harm. 

Having a particular condition, such as a learning disability or a mental illness, does not automatically mean an adult is at risk. For an adult to be considered at risk all three parts of the definition must be met.

The adult at risk may not be able to identify or report safeguarding concerns themselves. It is crucial that those who identify adults or children at risk report these concerns to the local authority/Health and Social Care Partnership/Social work services as soon as possible.

People from Ukraine who are deemed to be at risk of harm will be treated the same as any other adult at risk of harm in Scotland.  Statutory responsibility for undertaking Adult Support and Protection inquiries rests with the local authority where the adult who may be at risk of harm is currently accommodated. This should involve all key agencies and include consideration of any necessary enhancements to local processes, and the communication of these changes to the workforce and wider community.

Difference between young people (aged 16 and over) and adult definitions

The definition of an adult at risk includes people aged 16 years and over with disabilities, mental disorders, illness, or physical or mental infirmity and who are at risk of harm from themselves or others. Practitioners should pay particular attention to the needs and risks experienced by young people in transition from youth to adulthood, who are more vulnerable to harm than others.

As noted throughout this guidance, where a young person under 18 is at risk of harm, the National Guidance for Child Protection in Scotland (2021) is relevant, alongside local procedures for sharing information across children’s and adult services. Children also have rights under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). Additional information as relates to children's rights and the UNCRC in Scotland can be found in the UNCRC advice and guidance information pages.

Young people may already be receiving support from a range of children’s services, or as looked after children. This would not necessitate that they become adults at risk, in terms of the 2007 Act, simply because they have reached a particular age. Each case will need to be considered individually.

As other legislation and provisions exist which include persons up to 18 years (and sometimes up to age 26 years or beyond) support under these other provisions may be more appropriate for certain young persons. The responsibilities of the local authority and other agencies for persons aged 16 -18 years extend beyond adult protection legislation. Situations may arise, particularly for 16- and 17-year-old people, where there are legitimate interests requiring engagement from services for both children and adults.

Adults at risk of harm: possible increased risk

Adult Support and Protection is part of a continuum of collaborative responsibilities placed upon agencies working with adults at risk of harm. It requires sound professional judgement, based on robust assessment and available evidence, informed by the perspectives of the multi-agency team, which takes into account the views and wishes of the adult and their carers, or those with significant relationships with the adult.

It is possible that the vulnerability of some adults arriving from Ukraine will increase because of the additional pressures placed on families and communities by their separation from support networks, in addition to the impact of trauma.  As such a trauma informed approach should be taken when working with all those arriving from Ukraine. For further information, refer to the section of this guide relating to trauma informed approaches.

Some adults could be at risk of harm, neglect, self-harm, or self-neglect where that would not otherwise have been the case. With people staying in unfamiliar settings, with possible language barriers, there is an expected increased possibility across the spectrum of harm types. heightened isolation may also contribute to increased risk for some individuals.

In addition disabled people or people with health conditions may not have been previously identified or recognised as having additional support needs,  possibly due to societal stigma surrounding these. Individuals arriving may have been unseen by health or social work professionals, at all or for a prolonged period. They may also  not have been assessed or diagnosed when arriving from Ukraine into Scotland.

The risks to the health, rights, and well-being of older people must be considered; particularly as older adults may have encountered ever-increasing challenges accessing pensions, health care, and/or other basic services. Risks that may be relevant for all age groups on arrival to Scotland may be particularly acute for older adults due to infirmity, small social networks, isolation from social and family networks, and a lack of digital literacy.

Financial harm

Risks of financial harm may be exacerbated for people arriving from Ukraine. This could be associated with the initiation of financial processes to access Universal Credit or other benefits, the opening of bank accounts, or  the need to undertake other financial transactions.

Financial harm can take the form of benefit fraud, financial control, theft of money or possessions, or being defrauded of possessions.

Harm is often not immediately apparent, particularly as the alleged harmer can be someone known to or trusted by the victim, such as a family member, friend, or neighbour. Arrivals from Ukraine could also be targets for criminal activity such as doorstep crime and scams.

To reduce the risk of people becoming the victim of scams any follow-up visits should reinforce the message that people arriving in the UK via Ukraine visas are entitled to the same free NHS and social work services as people ordinarily resident in Scotland as well as having employment rights. There is a risk that people will remain in (or pay for) unsuitable, unsanitary, or unsafe accommodation if there is confusion or lack of access to information about their rights.

Refer to the section on Public Protection, Human Trafficking above.

Online harm

Exposure to online harm (including grooming, fraud, and scams) is also a risk. As with the above financial harm risks language barriers may increase the risk of individuals being the target of online harm. Arrivals from Ukraine are encouraged to access the Action Fraud website to identify ways to protect themselves.

Other harm including "cuckooing"

Services and staff should be alert to signs that individuals or groups are using the current crisis as an opportunity to harm people including, but not limited to, unlawfully and adversely affecting an adult’s property, rights, or interests.  Additionally services and staff should be aware of signs of sexual, physical and psychological harm. ‘Cuckooing’ is a practice where people take over a person’s home and use the property to facilitate exploitation. The person is usually intimidated and too scared to report it to anyone. The risk of cuckooing may be exacerbated in situations where the arrivals from Ukraine are in accommodation without a host present. Cuckooing can be an offence within the Human Trafficking and Exploitation (Scotland) Act 2015

Staff and volunteers involved in adult protection activity

All providers who deliver health and social care services should ensure that people are not placed at risk of harm by delays in care, support or protection planning. Those providing support, and particularly those named in the 2007 Act, should ensure that staff, including volunteers, are adult protection aware in order that they can recognise harm, abuse, or neglect, and respond appropriately.

Streamlined measures when engaging volunteers, or those new to social care front line provision, may be useful (e.g., deployment of the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) Adult Support and Protection mobile application). Consideration should be given by Adult Protection Committees and Health and Social Care Partnerships to the provision of Basic or Intermediate levels of Adult Support and Protection training for those involved in resettlement activity (e.g., Public Protection | Turas | Learn ( This should promote awareness raising of adults at risk and referral pathways.

Adults with incapacity

The Adults with Incapacity (Scotland) Act 2000 provides a framework for safeguarding the welfare and managing the finances of adults (people aged 16 or over) who lack capacity due to mental illness, learning disability, dementia or a related condition, or an inability to communicate (when this is not related to a language barrier).

If it is suspected that an adult lacks the ability to understand decisions regarding their welfare or finances – including where they are going to live on arrival from Ukraine – a referral should be made to the local authority social work department.

Self-care, support and supervision of staff and volunteers

The support and supervision of practitioners involved in safeguarding, regardless of role, is always important; but it is particularly so in these challenging times. Methods and models of supervision should also include consideration of how new, redeployed, or returning retired staff will be made aware of adult support and protection through adequate supervision and support. The Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) mobile applications may provide some support in this regard (Apple version; Android version).

Staff support systems should be promoted to facilitate the mental wellbeing of the workforce and mitigate any impact of working through challenging circumstances, some of which may be new to some staff. This should include recognition of the risk to staff of experiencing vicarious trauma. Some staff may experience isolation from their usual support networks if they have been redeployed to support with resettlement activity. Each area should have arrangements in place that can be adapted to support their workforce.

It is recognised that management support and direction may need to include new and innovative approaches, but partnerships should ensure that:

  • agencies continue to take measures to ensure accountability for staff practice;
  • practice in individual casework continues to be monitored and reflected on;
  • the wellbeing of staff is a constant feature of local management processes (staff and volunteers may find Scottish Wellbeing Hub helpful);
  • staff are supported to access relevant training, including online learning, particularly when they are newly introduced to working with adults who may be at risk of harm. As noted in the guidance and toolkits, the public protection e-learning modules on Turas can be accessed by anyone who registers with an email address (Public Protection | Turas | Learn ( and the SSSC mobile application may offer an additional resource to support this.

All practitioners involved in child and adult protection should ensure that whatever the urgency of each situation, they follow guidance on protecting their own health and wellbeing.



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