‘Seen something? Say something’

9 Feb 2015 02:18 PM

Campaign encourages Scots to act if they think an adult is being harmed

Scots are being urged to act if they think an adult is being harmed, neglected or exploited.

The Scottish Government’s ‘Seen something? Say something’ campaign is being launched today. It aims to raise awareness of the issues of adult harm and adults who are at risk of being harmed.

The campaign encourages people to act on their suspicions or instincts that somebody may be experiencing harm. An email or anonymous call to your local council is all it takes, and they will investigate the matter sensitively.

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

“It’s a sad fact that there are many adults in our society who are suffering at the hands of others. This could be physical harm, sexual abuse or financial exploitation. It could be neglect, psychological bullying, or taking advantage of a vulnerable person for your own advantage.

“It’s time that this suffering, which so often takes place in the shadows, came to an end. Through this campaign we are urging people to take action if they think an adult is being harmed.”

Contact details for all of Scotland’s local adult protection teams can be found at www.actagainstharm.org.

Getting complete statistics on adult harm in Scotland is difficult, and the full picture is unclear. However, it's estimated that there are about 300 referrals to council social work departments every week and that, on average, 16 of these will result in an investigation.

It’s not always easy to tell if an adult is in trouble. But there are signs and situations to be aware of. For example, a person may have unexplained cuts and bruises, or refuse to talk about injuries. They may be failing to look after themselves or their property, be confused about where their money has gone, or be giving money to people they know for reasons that might raise concerns. They may appear quiet, withdrawn or nervous around certain people, get upset at the mention of their relationship, or may constantly be having people – friends or strangers – visiting and using their home for reasons that are unclear.

Paul Comely, National Adult Protection Coordinator at WithScotland, said:

“People often have an instinctual feeling that someone is being harmed or is at risk; a sense that something is not right. By acting on this, they could help a person who is at risk to overcome the situation and become safe from harm.

“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 council will check the situation sensitively and support will be given, if needed.

“If you think an adult is at risk of harm and something feels wrong, you’re right to get it checked out. If you’ve seen something, say something.”

Police Scotland Detective Superintendent Willie Guild, said:

“One particularly insidious type of harm is financial harm with people being exploited through a range of scams, as well as doorstep criminals such as bogus callers or rogue traders, putting pressure on people to hand over their money or belongings. However it is not always strangers who pose the risk to vulnerable members of our communities and it is not always easy to identify a person is being harmed. I would urge people if they are concerned about an adult who may be at risk of harm to act on their instincts by contacting their local authority.

“Alternatively contact Police Scotland on 101. In an emergency always contact the police by calling 999.

“We will act on calls we receive and together we will tackle adult harm and improve adult protection across Scotland.”


The Scottish Government’s new Adult Support and Protection campaign highlights the issue of ‘adult harm’ in Scotland; adults who are being harmed, neglected or taken advantage of, or appear to be at risk of it happening.

Adults particularly at risk of harm are those who can’t look after or stand up for themselves through factors such as personal circumstances, physical or learning disability, age or illness and injury.

Adult harm can take many forms:
- Physical; cuts or bruises that can’t be properly explained, hiding injuries or refusing to talk about them, appearing fearful or withdrawn 
- Psychological; being verbally bullied, ridiculed, ostracised and threatened with violence. It can also include people taking advantage of someone who is unable to stick up for themselves, for example ‘freeloading’, persistently ‘hanging out’ at their house or involving them in illegal or social unacceptable activity
- Neglect; failing to dress, wash or eat properly, becoming socially isolated or leaving people who need help unattended and uncared for
- Financial; giving money to a stranger or someone they know, for reasons that concern you, being unclear or confused about where their money has gone or being stressed about money issues or debt 
- Sexual; being sexually harassed or intimidated, appearing nervous, withdrawn or intimidated, becoming tearful or upset when their relationship is mentioned 
It is estimated that there are, on average, 300 referrals relating to adult harm received across Scotland each week. On average, one investigation is commenced for every 18 referrals received, and one protection order granted for every 12 investigations commenced.