Codeword scheme for domestic abuse victims praised by PCC
From today (14 January), victims of domestic abuse will be able to access much needed support from thousands of pharmacies across the UK, backed by the government.
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.
The Prime Minister committed to launch this scheme at the Hidden Harms summit last year in recognition of the impact of Covid restrictions on the ability of victims to reach out for help and support. The scheme was initially proposed by survivors as something that would have helped them.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said:
"As we once again have to ask people across the country to stay at home to tackle this virus, it’s vital that we take action to protect those for who home is not a safe space.
"That is why we have launched this scheme, supported by pharmacies up and down the country, to give some of the most vulnerable people in society a critical lifeline – making sure they have access to the support they need and keep them safe from harm."
Lincolnshire Police Head of Protecting Vulnerable People, Detective Superintendent Martyn Parker said:
"This is a really important initiative. It could provide a lifeline to someone who is enduring lockdown with an abuser. It gives an opportunity for someone to get help when their usual escape options may be limited.
"Please also know that if you ever need to leave your home to escape harm, the restrictions do not apply."
Lincolnshire Police and Crime Commissioner Marc Jones said:
"This service is another vital lifeline for those facing domestic abuse. Lincolnshire is made up of many rural communities which, combined with lockdown, can leave people feeling incredibly isolated.
"If you are experiencing domestic abuse and feel too scared or unable to contact the police, please consider using this service at your local participating pharmacy. You are not alone."
Pharmacies will be given promotional material to display in store to signal to victims that they are participating. We will be promoting the scheme alongside health professionals, social workers and Job Centres, local authorities and specialist support services for victims.
The scheme will be initially available through the 2,300 Boots stores across the UK as well as 255 independent pharmacies. There will be an on-going sign-up process open to all pharmacies.
The codeword scheme will complement the charity Hestia’s UK SAYS NO MORE Safe Spaces initiative by enabling pharmacy staff to offer immediate and emergency assistance. Building on the successful Home Office #YouAreNotAlone campaign, this scheme is another way government is raising awareness of the vital support available through domestic abuse charities and other partners including ourselves.