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Pharmacies launch codeword scheme to support domestic abuse victims

by Jonathan Kearney

Victims of domestic abuse can now access support from thousands of pharmacies across the UK following the launch of the Ask for ANI scheme.

The Ask for ANI (Action Needed Immediately) scheme allows those at risk or suffering from abuse to discreetly signal that they need help and access support. By asking for ANI, a trained pharmacy worker will offer a private space where they can understand if the victim needs to speak to the police or would like help to access support services such as a national or local domestic abuse helplines.

As an essential retailer based on high streets across the country, and with specifically trained staff, pharmacies can provide a safe space for victims to sound an alarm if they are isolated at home with their abuser and unable to get help in another way.

Participating pharmacies will display posters in their window and around the shop to let customers know that they can approach a member of staff to seek help.

When a victim uses the codeword or asks for help, the member of staff will ask them to accompany them to a consultation room. They will then check whether the victim is in danger and want the police to be called. If so, they will be given a phone to dial 999 or they will make the call on the victim’s behalf.

Alternatively, if the victim does not need emergency help at that time, the staff member will assist them to contact a national domestic abuse helpline or local support service. They may also contact the police on the non-emergency 101 number.

Health professionals, social workers and Job Centres will also be asked to promote the scheme, alongside police, local authorities and specialist support services for victims.

Merseyside’s Police Commissioner Jane Kennedy said: “This is a very welcome and simple idea which has the ability to make a huge difference for people who can be at great risk.

“I want those suffering from domestic abuse to know they are not alone and that help and support is available. I will be working with my community safety partners to raise awareness of the ‘Ask for ANI’ scheme to ensure victims know they can use the codeword to access emergency support.

“I will also be encouraging as many local pharmacies to join this initiative as possible and my thanks go to all the pharmacies who have already signed up to participate. Pharmacies are safe environments and, especially at the moment when other places of shelter are closed, pharmacies can give people who are at risk a simple way to get vital support.”

Detective Chief Inspector Bev Hyland from Merseyside’s Police’s Protecting Vulnerable People Unit said: “Merseyside Police fully supports the Ask for ANI scheme, and our staff are fully briefed and will respond to any calls received. This scheme is particularly welcomed, at a time when victims of domestic abuse may feel isolated and unable to reach out for help.

“I would like to reiterate that Merseyside Police will respond to all incidents of domestic abuse, and victims will be dealt with in a sensitive manner. There is also support available to victims through domestic abuse support services across Merseyside, who have still been operating throughout lockdown.

“Victims should not suffer in silence, and I am hoping the Ask for ANI scheme, will provide another way in which victims of domestic abuse can seek help.”