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The Ask for ANI (Assistance Needed Immediately) scheme allows those at risk of 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.
Cheshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner David Keane said: “We are very conscious 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 isn’t the safe haven it should be.
“The Ask for ANI scheme offers another avenue for victims of domestic abuse, ensuring they get the help they need in a safe and discreet way.”
The scheme is initially available through the 2,300 Boots stores across the UK as well as 255 independent pharmacies. There is an ongoing sign-up process open to all pharmacies.
Participating pharmacies will display promotional materials to show they are in the scheme and staff will know what to do should a customer use the codeword.
Detective Chief Inspector Chris Williams added: “This scheme will run in tandem with those we already have in place, such as our Open The Door campaign where we work with local authority partners and Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service, but will be led by pharmacies. Ask for ANI is a voluntary scheme in which participating pharmacies will display posters to show they are taking part and are a safe space for victims of domestic abuse.
“When we receive a report of ANI from a pharmacy, the Constabulary will respond to this report and safeguard the victim in need. This is another way of supporting and safeguarding those who are affected by domestic abuse.”
Other domestic abuse initiatives carried out by Cheshire Police and partners since the Covid pandemic began are ‘You Are Not Alone’, working with supermarkets and other businesses across the county. Similar to Ask for ANI, victims might find themselves away from their abuser while shopping and can ask staff for a safe place to call police or visit www.openthedoorcheshire.org.uk to find domestic abuse agencies in their area.
The Force has also been hosting weekly domestic abuse live web chats since May last year, where people can ask for advice and information anonymously. Their questions are answered by a panel comprising representatives from police, specialist local authority teams and domestic abuse organisations.
Anyone who believes they, or someone they know, are suffering domestic abuse should report it by calling Cheshire Police on 101 (always call 999 in an emergency situation) or by going to www.openthedoorcheshire.org.uk to find support in their locality.