Safeguarding Minister tells LBC about new domestic abuse assistance codeword scheme

14 January 2021, 08:44

Atkins outlines "Ask for Ani"

By Megan White

Domestic abuse victims will be able to "Ask for Ani" in pharmacies across the UK to access help as part of a new codeword scheme, Safeguarding Minister Victoria Atkins has told LBC.

Thousands of pharmacies including Boots are taking part so victims can signal to staff that they need assistance in contacting a helpline or the police.

From Thursday, anyone who “asks for Ani” will be taken by a staff member to a space such as a consulting room where they can be put in touch with the police or support services and helplines.

Speaking about the new scheme to LBC's Nick Ferrari, Ms Atkins said: "This scheme, I hope, will be a real lifeline for victims of domestic abuse.

"We know that domestic abuse is about a perpetrator controlling the victim and indeed, it may be very difficult for the victim to seek help from the police or domestic abuse charities.

"So this is another way, in addition to the helplines and web-based services this is another way for victims to seek help.

"What will happen is they walk into a Boots chemist - there are over 2,300 stores across the United Kingdom - or 247 independent pharmacies, and we'd love more pharmacies to sign up if you're listening.

"They walk into the pharmacy, the pharmacist would be fully trained, they use the codeword, the pharmacist will know what that means, they will be taken into a consultation room and then asked whether they want to call the police or the domestic abuse helpline or the other helplines that are available on the website, then they can get that time and that space to get that help."

The new scheme is in addition to an existing scheme, launched in May by the charity Hestia, which saw safe spaces installed in Boots's consultation rooms for survivors to contact support services.

More than a hundred businesses, including Superdrug, Morrisons and independent pharmacies, have since joined in, with almost 5,000 safe spaces in place across the UK.

One in five offences recorded by police during and immediately after the first national lockdown in England and Wales involved domestic abuse, according to official figures.

Police recorded more than a quarter of a million offences flagged as domestic abuse related over March to June, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

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