Domestic abuse has increased exponentially during the lockdown periods, and many victims are unable to access the support they need because their abuser is in close proximity almost 24 hours a day. In response to this situation, the government has worked with Boots and independent pharmacies to launch the Ask for ANI domestic abuse codeword scheme.
ANI (pronounced Annie) stands for Action Needed Immediately. By asking for ANI, a trained pharmacy worker will offer a private space where they can speak with the victim to ascertain if he or she needs to contact the police or would like help to access support services such as national or local domestic abuse helplines.
Chief Executive of the National Pharmacy Association Mark Lyonette said:
Community pharmacies are about people, not just pills. There is a clear and urgent need to support victims of abuse and we want to play our part.
The Ask for ANI alert mechanism is a discreet and sensitive way to help support some of the most vulnerable people in our society.
Suzanne Jacob, OBE, Chief Executive of SafeLives said:
Victims of domestic abuse are experts in their own situation and its survivors of abuse who first asked for this scheme. We need to give victims as many options as possible, including during the very tight restrictions of lockdown.
The Ask for ANI scheme will provide a further vital lifeline for domestic abuse victims trapped by their perpetrators because of Covid. A trip to a participating shop or pharmacy might be a critical opportunity for someone to get the help they desperately need.
Registered pharmacies will be displaying promotional items in store, so look out for the appropriate signs as shown below.
Pharmacies are invited to register to take part in Ask for ANI
The sign-up process is open to all pharmacies on an ongoing basis. The more pharmacies that engage with the domestic abuse Ask for ANI scheme, the greater the opportunity to improve or even save the life of someone subject to domestic abuse.
Naturally, all pharmacies registering for the scheme will need to undertake appropriate training and have appropriate, discreet facilities available to speak with anyone asking for support.
Pharmacies can register their interest HERE
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.
Additionally, the government is also encouraging employers to take steps to recognise signs of domestic abuse and help staff find the right support. Many companies now have Mental Health First Aid Trainers who may be in the best position to recognise tell-tale signs of domestic abuse which are frequently exhibited through mental health issues such as depression and anxiety rather than physical signs. As Lucy Whittaker, Founding Director and Lead Trainer at Alpha Vesta CIC explains in her article Impact of Domestic Abuse in the Workplace:
Embedding a culture of understanding, creating a non-judgemental space for employees, a commitment to ongoing training and an understanding of the risk factors that surround domestic abuse are the four key fundamental areas which we educate companies on.
Over half of victims of domestic abuse did not disclose the abuse to anyone at work because they were ashamed or felt it was inappropriate to mention but over 65% of those same victims said they felt safer at work than at home and that they could be themselves.
As a neighbour, friend or family member, you are also urged to look for signs that domestic abuse may be happening, remembering that not all domestic abuse is purely physical in nature. Do encourage the victim to seek the support they need, albeit you should avoid attempting to intervene other than providing moral support and information.