All three Ayrshire Adult Protection Committee Chairs and Councils in partnership with NHS Ayrshire & Arran and Police Scotland, have joined together in a campaign to remind people that we all still need to be united in protecting people from harm or abuse.
With National Adult Support and Protection Day coming up on Sunday 20 February, we know that the longer term impact of the pandemic restrictions has meant that many vulnerable people have become increasingly lonely and isolated and may be less visible or have less contact with others.
This may mean they could be more at risk of being harmed by untrustworthy professionals, friends, family or strangers who may try to befriend and exploit them by taking advantage of them. This often happens through social media with the promise of romance or the promise of making money. As a friend, neighbour, family member, parent or professional we all have a responsibility to keep people safe from harm. This means we need everyone to remain vigilant and if you see someone who may not look safe or something you see doesn’t look quite right, a wide range of protection services are available to check it out. Remember the person may not feel able or be able to do this for themselves.
The ‘Seen Something, Say Something’ campaign aims to raise awareness of the need to take a closer look at what you might see or hear. Is it a friend helping someone or a freeloader helping themselves? There are support services, including third sector, ready and able to help anyone who needs assistance with banking, shopping, house repairs or connecting with others to reduce loneliness and isolation. If someone doesn’t feel safe at home, help is at hand.
If you are worried about yourself or someone else who is at risk of harm, you should call the police on 999 if it’s an emergency, or otherwise call 101. For a health-related issue, call 111 or you can also speak to your local social work service about your concerns. Callers can remain anonymous if they wish, and help can still be provided. As well as these numbers, any children who are worried about harm or abuse can call Childline on 0800 1111.
Councillor Clare Maitland, Cabinet Member for Social Care and Mental Wellbeing at East Ayrshire Council, said: “Abuse or harm can happen to anyone and we want people to know that it’s ok to reach out and ask for help. Very often, vulnerable people at risk of harm can seem invisible, and that has sadly become even more the case over the last couple of years.
“Help is still very much available and I would encourage anyone who needs our help to get in touch immediately.”
Professor Paul Martin, Chair of the South Ayrshire Adult and Child Protection Committees, said: “The COVID-19 pandemic has challenged us all over the last two years, and now more than ever it is important for us to work together to ensure the safety of everyone in our community.
“Our teams are here for you, so please don’t suffer in silence. Remember that not all abuse is physical, and if you’re concerned about your wellbeing, get in touch with us. We all have a part to play so please be vigilant and do not assume that someone else has already reported an incident of harm or abuse; see something, say something.”
Councillor Robert Foster, Cabinet Member for Health and Social Care in North Ayrshire, said: “As restrictions are lifted and a sense of normality returns, it’s important we all remember that there are still adults at real risk from harm in our communities.
“Whether this is from physical or mental abuse, neglect or self-harm, or vulnerability to exploitation or fraud, it is crucial that we look out for signs of these in our friends, family and neighbours.
“We all have a right to live a life free from harm, and it’s everyone’s responsibility to look out for those who are vulnerable and report any concerns we might have, as they may not be able to report it themselves.
“We’d urge anyone with concerns about the welfare of an adult to either contact us directly or call the Police on 101. In an emergency, always call 999.”
Professor Hazel Borland, Nurse Director said, “Our health and care staff have continued to provide support to individuals at risk of harm and abuse throughout the pandemic. We are committed to providing support to these individuals and recognise the importance of raising awareness of the wider options available.
“Your health and wellbeing is of the utmost importance and you should seek help from someone you can trust if you are concerned about yourself or someone else.”
Detective Chief Inspector Amanda McHarg of Ayrshire Division’s Public Protection Unit, said: “Police Scotland is fully committed to ensuring that every one of Scotland’s citizens is looked after.
“Across Ayrshire we recognise that home hasn’t necessarily been a safe place for all vulnerable people and, in fact, some may have been exposed to even greater risk of abuse, harm and neglect during the pandemic.
“Public protection is complex and policing on its own is not the solution. By working in partnership, taking a multi-agency approach, increasing public confidence and raising public awareness, we are better placed to identify threat, manage risk and prevent harm. It is absolutely crucial that our communities know that help is out there.
“Ayrshire Division is pleased to support this campaign, which sends out a very important message that a wide range of help and support services continue to be available to anyone dealing with harm or abuse.
“No-one should live in fear. It is not acceptable, not inevitable, and we believe that by working together we can make it stop. I urge you to seek support or advice if you are a victim, or if you are concerned about someone you know.”