Domestic abuse victims can now discreetly get help by ‘Asking for Ani’ at Boots pharmacies and other independent chemists.
From today people can ask for ‘Ani’ at pharmacies and be taken to private consultation rooms where trained staff will help them contact the police and specialist support services.
Ani, which stands for ‘Action Needed Immediately’, is part of the Government’s efforts to help people trapped in unsafe situations while at home in lockdown.
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.’
The codeword scheme was proposed by domestic abuse survivors who said having something like ‘Ask for Ani’ would have helped them.
Victims can use the scheme, launched by home secretary Priti Patel, at 2,300 Boots branches and 255 independent pharmacies.
Discreet social media campaigns will advertise the phrase and pharmacies will be given promotional material to put up in their stores so people know they are participating in the scheme and have trained staff.
Ms Patel told ITV that having a codeword is ‘incredibly important’ for people abused by a ‘husband, wife or whoever it may be’ because lockdown has ‘reduced the number of opportunities’ for people to ask for help.
Ministers decided pharmacies would be a good location for the scheme because they can stay open as essential retailers that people could unsuspiciously visit.
The sign-up process will remain ongoing so businesses can continue to register to be a part of the scheme in the future.
Today also saw reforms to pre-charge bail laws that give police officers the power to impose conditions on a suspect who is released before the police have gathered enough evidence or made a decision about charging them.
This means police can restrict the actions of people involved in domestic abuse and sexual violence cases in order to further protect victims.
Safeguarding minister Victoria Atkins said: ‘I know that lockdown restrictions are especially difficult for those experiencing domestic abuse. Home should be a safe place, but for those confined with an abuser it is clearly not.
‘The codeword scheme will offer a lifeline to all victims, ensuring they get urgent help in a safe and discreet way.’
The pandemic has made it difficult for domestic abuse victims to reach out for help with 67.7% of those living with their abusers telling Women’s Aid that they felt they had no one to turn to during lockdown.
Two-thirds of survivors said abusers used coronavirus restrictions to harm them further and 62% said their mistreatment worsened during the pandemic.
Last March refuges in the UK reported a 40.6% decrease in vacancies from the 2,157 places that were available during the same period in 2019.
‘As home secretary, it is my priority to deliver justice for victims and restore confidence in our criminal justice system,’ Ms Patel said.
‘The introduction of the national codeword scheme, Ask for ANI, will ensure victims of domestic abuse can always get help when they need it, while our pre-charge bail reforms will ensure that suspects, including those charged with domestic abuse, are more closely monitored and the public is protected.
‘Taken together, these changes will help us create a safer, more secure UK after the pandemic.’
Domestic violence helpline
If you are in immediate danger call 999. If you cannot talk, dial 55 and the operator will respond.
For emotional support, you can contact the National Domestic Violence Helpline on 0808 2000 247. Alternatively, you can email Women’s Aid on [email protected]
For free and confidential advice and support for women in London affected by abuse, you can call Solace on 0808 802 5565 or email [email protected]
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