Appropriate Adult Services

Support for Vulnerable People Involved in the Criminal Justice System

Appropriate Adults play a vital role in supporting equity of access to the justice system and the upholding of human rights. People who access Appropriate Adults services are aged 16 years or over and have, or appear to have, communication support needs owing to at least one of the following;

  • Learning disability
  • Mental health challenges
  • Personality disorder

This includes people with an acquired brain injury, autistic people and people affected by dementia.

The majority of referrals are received from Police Scotland. However, Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2016 widened access to Border Force, British Transport Police, Police Investigations & Review Commissioner, Civic Nuclear Constabulary, Her Majesty’s Revenues & Customs, Ministry of Defence and National Crime Agency.

The Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2016 (Support for Vulnerable Persons) Regulations 2019 - which came into force on 10 January 2020 - confer on Local Authorities the duties to deliver Appropriate Adult services. There are 22 Appropriate Adult services within Scotland representing all 32 Local Authorities. The services were placed on a statutory footing in January 2020 with work now underway to support Local Authorities transitioning to statutory arrangements.

National Appropriate Adult Co-ordinator

COSLA has hosted the National Appropriate Adult Co-ordinator since September 2020.  This was a result of an agreement to work with the Scottish Government to implement the new statutory Appropriate Adult services. The aims of the post are to:-

  • Promote consistency, quality and sustainability in relation to Appropriate Adult provision across Scotland
  • Implement national Appropriate Adult training framework
  • Promote awareness of the role of the Appropriate Adult across different sectors
  • Contribute to implementation of quality assessment framework for local authorities in relation to Appropriate Adult services
  • Contribute to development and implementation of policy initiative relating to Appropriate Adults and communication support in the criminal justice system
  • Deliver on specific and thematic pieces of work including the national Appropriate Adult reports, research and guidance
  • Supporting the stakeholder group overseeing the implementation of the statutory service, structuring work of the group’s agenda and coordinate its actions.

National Appropriate Adult Oversight Group

National oversight arrangements for the implementation of the new duties are now in place with the Scottish Government mandated National Appropriate Adult Oversight Group. Members of the group currently are:

  • Mental Welfare Commission (Chair)
  • National Appropriate Adult Co-ordinator COSLA (Secretariat)
  • Scottish Government
  • Scottish Appropriate Adult Network
  • Care Inspectorate
  • Police Scotland
  • Social Work Scotland
  • Royal College of Speech & Language Therapy
  • Supporting Offenders with a Learning Disability (SOLD) Network
  • People First
  • ARC Scotland
  • Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service
  • Law Society of Scotland
  • Support in Mind Scotland
  • The Forensic Network
  • Victim Support Scotland
  • Clarity in Communication


The Guidance for Local Authorities, published in January 2020, can be accessed here.


The first edition of the Appropriate Adults Newsletter was published in May 2021.

Edition 1

Edition 2 (July 2021)

Edition 3 (September 2021)

Edition 4 (November 2021)

Jo Savege
National Appropriate Adult Co-ordinator