Ensuring Rights and Preventing Harm
The purpose of the Act is to safeguard and support adults who are unable to safeguard themselves, because they are affected by disability, mental disorder, illness or physical or mental infirmity. The General Principles of the Act state that any action taken should benefit the person and be the least restrictive option available. The Act provides:
• A duty to enquire and investigate where harm is suspected
• A requirement for public bodies to co-operate with local councils
• A range of protection orders: assessment, removal and banning, where serious harm is suspected
• A legislative requirement for local authorities to set up Adult Protection Committees to oversee the effectiveness of multi-agency prevention and protective practices
The Highland Adult Support and Protection (ASP) Inter-agency Procedures were developed by the partnership of agencies that have primary responsibility for keeping people safe in Highland – The Highland Council, NHS Highland and Northern Constabulary. They are aimed at safeguarding and supporting people at risk of harm and provide guidance to staff as to what action to take if actual harm, or risk of harm is alleged. In Highland, the protection of vulnerable adults is taken extremely seriously and the procedures provide clarity to staff, particularly in respect of the part they play in discharging their duties. These procedures highlight the need for all agencies to work together to make sure that people in the community who are at risk of harm are appropriately supported.
Who is an adult at risk of harm?
The Act defines an adult at risk as a person aged 16 or over, who is:
- Unable to safeguard his/her own well being, property, rights or other interests and
- At risk of harm and
- Because s/he is affected by disability, mental disorder, illness or physical or mental infirmity, is more vulnerable to being harmed than adults who are not so affected
What is harm?
The Act defines harm as all harmful conduct and in particular includes:
- Conduct which causes physical harm
- Conduct which causes psychological harm (e.g. by causing fear, alarm and/or distress)
- Unlawful conduct (e.g. theft)
- Conduct which causes self-harm
Possible signs of harm
There are many signs of harm. It is important to consider any changes to the well-being of a person at risk. Some examples are:
- Unexplained or unusual injuries
- Misuse of medication, (e.g. not giving medicines properly)
- Unexplained changes of behaviour, (e.g. becoming anxious and withdrawn, fear of another person, unexplained debt, not paying bills for services)
- The use by another person of the adult’s possessions, bank account or property without his/her informed consent
- Pressure by family or professionals to have someone moved into or taken out of care
- Hostile or unkind behaviour by a care-giver
- The adult at risk is not receiving appropriate care, which would protect them from harm
- Unexplained deterioration in health and/or appearance
- A long delay between illness/injury and the adult getting appropriate treatment
- The deprivation of basic needs, such as adequate food or heating
- Prejudicial actions or remarks to the adult at risk about age, gender, disability, race, sexual or religious orientation
- Failure to provide adequate information, not being informed of rights, or being misinformed
Where can harm occur?
Harm can occur anywhere. For example: in the family home, in any social or health care setting, hospital ward, care home, day service, social club, leisure activities, place of work or any public place.
Who can cause harm?
Anyone can cause harm to a vulnerable person. For example: a relative, unpaid carer, spouse/partner, professional carer, volunteer, another service user, stranger, member of the public, or the ‘adult at risk’ may be harming himself/herself.
How do I report that an adult is at risk of harm?
If you are a member of the public and witness, suspect or receive information about an adult at risk of harm, you should report this using the Highland Adult Protection Line 0800 9020042.
If you are an employee of the The Highland Council, NHS Highland, Northern Constabular, the Care Inspectorate, a third sector or private sector care provider, you have a duty to report this. The Procedures describe the steps you must follow and who should be contacted.
The number for the Highland Adult Protection Line is 0800 9020042
The 24- hour emergency number for adult services is 0845 7697 284