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Adult harm and exploitation

Published: 16 Feb 2016 11:00

People urged to look for warning signs.

People are being urged to trust their gut instincts if they spot potential warning signs of an adult being harmed, exploited or neglected.

The second phase of the Scottish Government's 'Seen Something? Say Something' campaign is launched today, aiming to raise awareness of the potential harm that can be inflicted on adults at risk because of age, illness, infirmity or disability.

A series of press adverts and social media posts will alert people to the fact that adult harm can take many forms, including physical, psychological, sexual, financial or neglect.

If anyone has suspicions that an adult is at risk they should contact their local social work department by email or by phone if they want to remain anonymous.

Jamie Hepburn, Minister for Sport, Health Improvement and Mental Health said:

"Any form of abuse inflicted on a vulnerable adult is utterly abhorrent. Sadly it is often the case that this kind of abuse goes on beneath the radar, but by keeping an eye out for our neighbours and relatives, we can all do our bit to help.

"Building on last year's campaign we are seeking to raise awareness of these issues and make sure that people know what to do if they think an adult is at risk of harm - whether physical, emotional or financial.

"The good news is that there are people to turn to if you are worried about someone being harmed - a simple call to your local social work department is often all it takes. All the contact details are on our campaign website. Of course, if a person is in immediate danger, don't hesitate to call the police."

Warning signs that could indicate an adult is at risk include, unexplained cuts and bruises, or refusal to talk about injuries, confusion about where their money has gone, or the appearance of nervousness around certain people.

Paul Comley, Adult Support and Protection Coordinator at WithScotland, a programme to support professionals working with adults at risk, said:

"Local communities can play an important role in getting at-risk adults help.

"Sometimes people don't want to get involved, for fear of being seen to intrude in other people's lives. Or they are worried they might be wrong about the situation and their actions will result in another person being unfairly accused. But it is vital to raise concerns, and it is safe to do so; the local adult support and protection representatives will check the situation sensitively and support will be given, if needed."

Graham Vance, Financial Business Security Advisor at the Scottish Business Resilience Centre, said:

"Financial harm or exploitation is most likely to take place in a person's home by someone they know. Some perpetrators, especially those in positions of trust such as a relative or spouse, may also fail to appreciate that their actions amount to a crime; believing it's acceptable to take money from their relative.

"Less common, with approximately around 25 per cent of reported cases of financial exploitation, involves bogus workmen where a person can feel pressured to pay large amounts of money for work carried out in their garden or home.

"Our message is very simple, if you see something that doesn't feel or look quite right, say something. It may be nothing, but it only takes an email or one anonymous phone call to your social work department to report it, and they will investigate it sensitively."

Assistant Chief Constable Malcolm Graham, lead for Major Crime and Public Protection, Police Scotland, said:

"Living a life free from abuse and neglect is a fundamental right of every person. Throughout every community in Scotland there are adults who for a variety of reasons may be at risk of abuse, exploitation or neglect due to the actions, or lack of actions, of another person.

"Unfortunately, there is no typical abuser, and abuse can take place anywhere - a residential establishment, their own door step or the internet. This is why it is vitally important that everyone is able to recognise signs of possible abusive situations involving adults at risk of harm, because local communities can play a vital part in preventing and detecting harm and neglect.

"Police Scotland is committed to working with our partners in heath, local authorities and support agencies to ensure that the appropriate and proportionate support or protection is provided to any adult who may be at risk of harm. We are equally committed to identifying those persons who abuse, exploit and neglect and we will robustly investigate every report of criminality no matter when it happened, where it happened or who it involves."

A website - - will provide information and advice for people on how to spot the warning signs and situations of adult harm.


For more information, including details on the different types of harm, go to