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Vulnerable Aberdeen adult ‘would be dead by now’ without support

A campaign has been launched to encourage other vulnerable adults, or anyone concerned about them, to find out more about the support that's available.

Peter Albiston, a vulnerable aberdeen adult who received support and turned his life around
Peter Albiston reached out for help and says he wouldn't be alive today if he hadn't. Image: DC Thomson

An Aberdeen man who once weighed 58 stone and couldn’t look after himself believes he would be dead by now if he hadn’t asked for help to turn around his life.

Peter Albiston, 41, overcame addictions to drinking, gambling and smoking and has also stayed out of trouble with the law since “seeing the light”.

He’s become the face of a campaign to encourage other vulnerable adults or anyone concerned about them to find out more about the support that’s available.

Grampian’s health and social care services and Police Scotland are working together to identify people who are most at risk of getting into trouble or being harmed.

Speaking about his earlier life, Mr Albiston told The Press and Journal: “I had problems with alcohol, gambling and smoking.

“I was getting myself into a lot of trouble with the police and was in and out of courts, but now I’m a good citizen because I’ve been shown how to behave.”

‘I’m very happy to be alive’ thanks to Grampian support services

When Peter Albiston’s health began to decline, his loved ones quickly grew worried about him.

“I was 58 stone in weight,” he explained, adding: “I couldn’t get up, walk, or shower. I couldn’t go to the shop. My house was a tip. I couldn’t look after myself.

“People were worried about me – my doctors, my social workers, my family members. But I was very stubborn and didn’t want to take their advice.

“I said I was fine but I wasn’t. I never saw the light at the time.”

Peter became involved in what’s known as Adult Support and Protection meetings at which Advocacy Service Aberdeen made sure that his voice was heard.

“I have been through it three times. I had to arrange an advocacy worker to help me because I was finding it hard to understand why I was put in these meetings.

“They’re only trying to help you by stopping you from coming into harm or getting into danger. They’re looking out for your interests.

“That’s when I saw the light. Then I cooperated. I’m a lot better. I think if I hadn’t taken the help I would be dead by now. I’m very happy to be alive.”

Drive to bring life-saving help to vulnerable adults suffering in silence

Speaking on this year’s Adult Support and Protection Day, an annual national awareness day, Peter said: “There are a lot of people out there right now who are not accepting help, but they know themselves that they need the help.

“It was very scary to ask for help and I was hiding my problems and didn’t feel like I should tell anyone about them.

“But the people who put you through an Adult Support Protection meeting are only trying to make sure that you’re looking after yourself,” he added.

“Everyone was there for me because they were worried about me. You don’t have to be scared. People are there to try and help. Don’t hide in the shadows. That’s what I did.”

Throughout the Grampian region, some adults are considered to be more at risk of harm due to illness, trauma, or physical and mental health conditions.

That includes physical, psychological, financial or sexual harm, but vulnerable adults can also be at risk from neglect or even self-neglect.

Dependence on alcohol and drugs can also lead to some of them losing awareness of their living situations or the consequences of their decisions.

People are believed to be coming into harm in their own homes, at someone else’s home, where they work, or even in public places.

And it’s often caused by the people closest to them or in settings where they expect to be looked after, such as in care homes, hospitals or day centres.

Detective Chief Inspector Jackie Knight, Chair of the Grampian Adult Protection Group said: “It isn’t always easy to know what to do when you think someone may be at risk of harm.

“You might think that it is none of your business or that somebody else will notice and report it.

“But if you’re worried that someone is at risk of harm or neglect from others – or harming or neglecting themselves – please contact your local social work adult protection team.”

Grampian support services receiving loads of referrals concerning vulnerable adults

One person, who did not want to be named, said they were put at ease by the “approachable and professional” process that followed them reporting a concern.

The authorities responded by launching a “thorough” investigation into the care given to their father while he was a resident in a care home.

They added: “The situation was very stressful for all the family involved but this was made easier to deal with as a result of knowing what happened to my father would be addressed to prevent further harm to others”.

In Moray, from February 2020 to February 2022, the number of adult support and protection referrals steadily increased from between 30-40 per month to over 50, including 65 in September 2021.

Physical harm and financial harm were the most common types identified in the region during that period.

Across Aberdeen, well over 500 referrals about physical harm were recorded in 2021/2022.

In Aberdeenshire, more than two-thirds of investigations were focused on potential harms of a financial (26%) or physical (22%) nature or involving alleged neglect (22%).

Reports of criminals targeting vulnerable adults across Grampian to be investigated by the police

Detective Inspector Bruce Buntain, who works in the CID and is based in Public Protection, investigates matters concerning adult support protection.

“The types of scenarios that the police tend to see are financial harm, exploitation, self-harm, violence, and sexual harm,” the Det Insp said.

“Adults at risk are anyone unable to safeguard their rights, property and welfare, who are at risk of harm or are vulnerable owing to a disability such as a mental disorder, illness, or other form of infirmity.

The senior officer also revealed the signs that people should look out for.

“An adult with bruising or cuts – that might be a sign of neglect from a carer,” he explained, adding: “Someone who is giving away their money or people have got concerns about who they are giving their money to.

“That might be a sign of financial harm. When it doesn’t seem right, it often isn’t, and that’s when to speak to the police or talk to the local authority and share the concerns so we can look into them and see if we can try and help support and resolve any issues.

“It might be that someone just has something as simple as a change in behaviour or their associations with people might change and that can be an indicator that they’re struggling or being exploited in some way.

“They could be hoarding or collecting belongings which could be an indication of self-neglect, or a decline in their personal appearance or hygiene could show that they’re no longer able to look after themselves properly.

“If someone’s elderly and infirm, or if somebody’s vulnerable through substance misuse, they become more susceptible to being led astray, mistreated, or neglected in some way.

“Thankfully, there are people like me out there to help. If someone’s harming or exploiting you in some way, then they’re not the best person to be with you and caring for you.

“Contact us instead and we can keep you safe by stopping you from being exploited or harmed and offer you support.”

If you’re worried that someone is at risk of harm or neglect from others, or harming or neglecting themselves, contact your local social work adult protection team: 
Aberdeen City – email: /call: 0800 731 5520 
Aberdeenshire – email: / call: 01467 533100 
Moray – email: / call: 01343 563999 
Alternatively, you can contact the Police on 101, or telephone 999 if you believe the person is in immediate danger.