"It is incredibly important that victims and survivors know there are safe spaces and lifelines within their own communities," says Dame Vera Baird, as she welcomes the launch of the codeword scheme.

Ask For ANI campaign website.

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 scheme allows those at risk or suffering from abuse to discreetly signal that they need help and access to 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 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 in May 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

The codeword scheme will be promoted using discreet social media adverts and paid search. Pharmacies will be given promotional material to display in store to signal to victims that they are participating.  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.  

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 Victims’ Commissioner for England and Wales, Dame Vera Baird QC, said:

“Home is not a safe place for people experiencing domestic abuse, and this is especially true under strict lockdown conditions. So, it is incredibly important that victims and survivors know there are safe spaces and lifelines within their own communities. I welcome the launch of this codeword scheme, which offers victims local avenues for support and escape from domestic abuse, whilst following Government lockdown guidelines.

Safety for victims is paramount. This campaign has been in development for many months and I hope this long lead-in time has been used effectively to properly safeguard and mitigate against any risks. It can take immense courage and strength for victims and survivors to reach out for help, so it is imperative that there is a long-term commitment from government and pharmacies to provide robust and quality training.

This also requires commitment from the police to ensure referrals are handled with appropriate urgency to ensure victims are safe and have the confidence to report.

The groundwork for this scheme was laid by charities and survivors. I congratulate them on their success, and I am grateful to pharmacies and the Home Office for developing this further. I urge the government to work closely with the sector to further develop, monitor and evaluate this scheme over time to ensure it safeguards victims’ welfare.”