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The Adult Support and Protection (Scotland) Act 2007 defines Harm as physical, psychological, financial, neglect and self-harm but this is not exhaustive.

It is therefore recognised that there are a wide spectrum of both Harm and wider safeguarding themes and you can find out more about these below.

Coercive Control

Coercive Control is a term developed by Evan Stark to help us understand domestic abuse as more than a "fight".  It is a pattern of behaviour which seeks to take away the victim's liberty or freedom, to strip away their sense of self. It is not just a women's bodily integrity which is violated but also their human rights. From April 2018 this became a criminal offence.

Cuckooing and county lines

Cuckooing is a form of crime in which drug dealers take over the home of a vulnerable person in order to use it as a base for drug dealing. The crime is named for the cuckoo's practice of taking over other birds' nests for its young. Victims of 'cuckooing' can include older people, those suffering from mental or physical health problems and those living in poverty. 

The victim is at risk of domestic abuse, sexual exploitation and violence from the gang. It is common for gangs to have access to several addresses.  They move quickly between vulnerable people's homes for just a few hours, a couple of days or sometimes longer.  This helps gangs evade detection.

Signs that 'cuckooing' may be going on at a property include:

  • An increase in people entering and leaving
  • An increase in cars or bikes outside
  • Possible increase in anti-social behaviour
  • Signs of drug use

For information visit National Crime Agency - County Lines.

Criminal Exploitation

Whilst there are many forms of exploitation that share similar indicators this guidance will focus on criminal exploitation of children and adults (vulnerable and non-vulnerable). Criminal exploitation of children (under 18 years) or vulnerable adults (18 years and over) is when an individual or group takes advantage of an imbalance of power to coerce, control, manipulate or deceive the child or vulnerable adult into criminal activity, for the financial or other advantage of the exploiter. 

Criminal exploitation of non-vulnerable adults (18 years and over) is similar, but there may not be any significant power imbalance. It involves an individual or group subjecting the adult to force, threats or deception to induce them to become involved in criminal activity, for the financial or other advantage of the exploiter.

A victim may have been criminally exploited, even if the criminal activity they engage in appears consensual. The fact that someone is a child or an adult with vulnerabilities may make them more at risk of being exploited and drawn into criminal activity than others.

Further information can be found in the Practitioner Guidance on Criminal Exploitation produced by the Scottish Government in June 2023.

Discriminatory harm

Harm that may be classed as discriminatory may include:

  • unequal treatment based on age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion and belief, sex or sexual orientation (known as 'protected characteristics' under the Equality Act 2010)
  • verbal abuse, derogatory remarks or inappropriate use of language related to a protected characteristic
  • denying access to communication aids, not allowing access to an interpreter, signer or lip reader
  • harassment or deliberate exclusion on the grounds of a protected characteristic
  • denying basic rights to health care, education, employment and criminal justice relating to a protected characteristic
  • substandard service provision relating to a protected characteristic

Emotional/Psychological harm

Resulting in mental distress to the adult at risk such as:

  • excessive shouting, bullying, humiliation
  • manipulation or the prevention of access to services that would enhance life experience
  • isolation or sensory deprivation
  • denigration of culture or religion, sex, gender status, sexuality and disability
  • exploitation through prostitution

The following indicators should be considered by workers when concerns regarding emotional harm arise. In some situations the following will be applicable:

  • carers' behaviour
  • carers' history
  • pressure exerted by family or professional to have someone committed to care
  • weight change - loss of appetite or overeating
  • withdrawal confusion (could be caused by dehydration which produces toxic confusion)
  • loss of confidence
  • extreme submissiveness or dependence in contrast with known capacity
  • demonstration of fear of another person by the vulnerable adult
  • sudden changes in behaviour in the presence of certain persons
  • rejection
  • denigration
  • scapegoating
  • denial of opportunities for appropriate socialisation
  • under stimulation
  • sensory deprivation
  • isolation from normal social experiences, preventing the adult at risk from forming friendships
  • marked difference in material provision in relation to others in the household
  • unrealistic expectations of the vulnerable adult
  • asking for an adult at risk to be removed from home, or indicating difficulties in coping with an adult at risk, about whose care there are already doubts
  • fear of carers
  • refusal to speak
  • severe hostility/aggression towards other adults

Financial or material harm

Involving the exploitation of resources and belongings of the adult at risk such as:

  • theft or fraud
  • misuse of money, property or resources without informed consent
  • important documents are reported to be missing
  • unexplained or sudden withdrawal of money from accounts
  • contradiction between known income and capital and unnecessary poor living conditions especially where this has developed recently
  • personal possessions of valuables going missing from the home without satisfactory explanation
  • someone has taken responsibility for paying rent, bills, buying food etc. - but this is not happening
  • unusual interest taken by relative, friend, neighbour or other in financial assets, especially if little real concern shown in other matters
  • next of kin refuse to follow advice regarding control of property via continuing/welfare power of attorney
  • where care services, including residential care, are refused under clear pressure from other potential inheritors
  • unusual purchases unrelated to the known interests of the adult at risk

Scammers are always developing new scams to meet the new environment we find ourselves in. Many scams are online, distributed by test or email but they also come by mail or rogue doorstep callers.

If you think you have been targeted or the victim of a scam please contact the Trading Standards Service on 01563 576790 (Option 5) or email

Find out more about scams and what to look out for at on our Trading Standards page.

Fire safety

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service's Supporting Fire Safety in the Home - A Carers' Guide is a useful guide for carers/family when supporting a loved one.

To arrange a Home Fire Safety Visit contact Scottish Fire and Rescue via the following methods:

Forced Marriage

Forced marriage is when someone uses physical or emotional pressure to try to force another person into a marriage without their consent. Forced Marriage Protection Orders (FMPOs) aim to protect people threatened with, or already in, a forced marriage. The individual at risk can apply for the FMPO, or a third party can do so on their behalf. FMPOs were introduced by the Forced Marriage etc. (Protection and Jurisdiction) (Scotland) Act 2011

Gender based violence and domestic abuse

The Police define domestic violence as "any form of physical, non-physical or sexual harm which takes place within the context of a close relationship committed either in the home or elsewhere". In most cases this relationship will be between partners (married, co-habiting or otherwise) or ex-partners. 

The similarity between the above acts of harm in relation to adult protection is recognised. More information can be found on our domestic abuse page.

In addition the following schemes are available to support those finding themselves at risk of domestic abuse:

Hate crime

The Offences (Aggravation by Prejudice) (Scotland) Act 2009 provides for statutory aggravations for crimes motivated by malice and ill will towards an individual based on their sexual orientation, transgender identity or disability. Where offences are proven to be as a result of such malice or ill-will, the court must take that into account when determining sentence. The Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010 further strengthened statutory aggravations for racial and religiously motivated crimes.

Hate Crime involves any criminal offence which is perceived, by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice based on a personal characteristic. Hate crime can be motivated by disability, gender identity, race, religion or faith and sexual orientation.

Central Advocacy partners have developed an Easy Read Guide to Disability Hate Crime.

Third party reporting

Police Scotland are keen to promote the use of Third Party Reporting.

In some cases victims/witnesses of Hate Crime do not feel comfortable reporting the matter directly to the Police and may be more comfortable reporting it to someone they are familiar with.

To ensure all victims/witnesses are able to report Hate Crimes, Police Scotland works in partnership with a wide variety of partners who perform the role of Third Party Reporting Centres.

Staff within Third Party Reporting Centres have been trained to assist a victim or witness in submitting a report to the Police and can make such a report on the victim/witnesses behalf.

Look for this sign

3rd-party-reporting logo


A Hoarding Disorder is where someone acquires an excessive number of items and stores them in a chaotic manner, usually resulting in unmanageable amounts of clutter.

The items can be of little or no monetary value. Many do realise they have a problem but are reluctant to seek help because they feel extremely ashamed, humiliated or guilty about it.

It's really important to encourage a person who is hoarding seek help, as their difficulties discarding objects can not only cause loneliness and mental health problems but also pose a health and safety risk. The Supporting People Affected by a Hoarding Disorder Ayrshire Wide Guidance (PDF 7.84Mb) provides some useful information and contacts.

Neglect & acts of omission by others charged with care of adult at risk

This includes ignoring medical or physical care needs.

Part 3 "Ill-treatment and wilful neglect" of the Health (Tobacco, Nicotine etc. and Care) (Scotland) Act 2016 identifies as criminal offences ill-treatment or wilful neglect in health and social care settings.  One offence applies to individual health and social care workers, managers and supervisors, and another applies to organisations.

Part 2 of the same Act places a duty of candour on health and social care organisations.  This creates a legal requirement for health and social care organisations to inform people when they have been harmed as a result of the care and treatment they have received.

It is recognised from many recent reports that harm in care homes is an issue that should be recognised and that age discrimination by professionals and staff can contribute to risk and harm not being recognised.

The following indicators, singly or in combination, should alert workers to the possibility that adult at risk needs are being neglected:

  • failure to provide access to appropriate health, social care or educational services
  • withholding necessities such as nutrition, appropriate heating etc.
  • lack of appropriate food or poor quality food
  • lack of adequate clothing
  • circulation disorders
  • unhygienic home conditions
  • lack of protection or exposure to dangers including moral danger, or a lack of supervision appropriate to the adults ability to manage harm
  • failure or delay in seeking medical attention
  • the adult is found at home or in a care setting in a situation of serious but avoidable risk
  • unnecessary delay in staff responses to residents requests
  • serious or persistent failure to meet the needs of the adult at risk
  • non-attendance at arranged care service
  • isolation
  • staff regularly change and/or poor management

Predatory Marriage

A predatory marriage occurs when a vulnerable party has been enticed, coerced or manipulated into the marriage by a party who stands to gain financially through exploitation. Such marriages are typically associated with people who suffer from mental illness or cognitive impairment, such as dementia.

Suicide prevention

Suicide is one of the main causes of death among people in Scotland today, with two people dying by suicide each day.  Every life lost to suicide is a tragedy.  Most people contemplating suicide may not want to die; they want to stop the pain and difficulties they are suffering at the time.

You can find out more and access help on our suicide prevention page or visit the United to Prevent Suicide website.


Human Trafficking is the movement of adults, children and young people into and within countries with the intention of exploiting them. More information can be found on our Human Trafficking page or visit the UK Government's Support for Victims of Human Trafficking page.

Contact Information


Adult Protection Concerns (East Ayrshire North)
Health and Social Care Partnership
The Johnnie Walker Bond
15 Strand Street
Kilmarnock, KA1 1HU
Telephone: 01563 554200


Adult Protection Concerns (East Ayrshire South)
Health and Social Care Partnership
Cumnock Area Centre, Rothesay House
1 Greenholm Road
Cumnock, KA18 1LH
Telephone: 01290 427720
Social Work: Ayrshire Urgent Care Service
Note: The Emergency Out Of Hours Social Work Service is available after 5pm until 9am, Monday to Thursday and after 4pm on Friday until 9am on Monday (throughout the weekend). It is also available during public holidays. You will be put through to the Ayrshire Social Work out of Hours Response Service. A qualified Social Worker will assess the circumstances referred.