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The Act is designed to protect ‘adults at risk’. Councils, or equivalent local adult protection services, have a legal duty to step in if they think an adult is vulnerable to harm.


The council must:

  • abide by the principles of the Act to ensure what they do is: of benefit to the adult; the least restrictive option; and takes into account the views of the adult and their family/carers. The council must also provide the information needed to keep the adult involved in any decision, recognising their background and treating them equally as the council would treat others
  • make inquiries about anyone who they know or believe is at risk of harm who might require their support
  • consider independent advocacy and support services
  • take any necessary action.

The council has to make all necessary checks to make sure the adult is being properly looked after and is not being exploited.


To get a clearer understanding of what’s going on, the council may want to talk to other organisations involved in the adult’s care. These may include:

  • the Mental Welfare Commission
  • the Care Inspectorate
  • Health Improvement Scotland
  • the Public Guardian
  • other councils
  • the police
  • the relevant health board.

Councils have a duty to consider the need for independent advocacy. This is someone outwith the service who can be brought in to support the adult and help communicate their wishes.

If it becomes evident that an adult is at risk, then the council must take action. Often, that action can be as simple as making sure the adult is getting enough support; for example, home care.

Where the adult is struggling to protect themselves and a more formal approach is needed,  the council may consider – with the adult – the need to apply to the courts for a Protection Order.

Are you (or someone you know) at risk of being harmed?

Help is available