NAWP encourages greater awareness of ‘Ask for ANI’ scheme

The measures introduced to stop the spread of Covid-19 have resulted in an increase in domestic abuse.

Thu 28th January 2021 The PDA

Refuge, the UK’s largest domestic abuse charity, reported that calls to its National Domestic Abuse Helpline rose by 25% during the first week of the first national lockdown in March 2020. The Refuge website also saw an increase in traffic of 150%. During the first three weeks of the Covid-19 restrictions being imposed, at least 16 women were killed in domestic abuse-related incidents, which is more than triple the usual number.

On Thursday 14 January, the Home Office launched a domestic abuse codeword scheme in thousands of pharmacies across the UK. This scheme allows those suffering from (or at risk of) domestic abuse to signal discreetly to pharmacy staff that they need assistance and support. They can do this by asking for ANI, which means ‘Action Needed Immediately.’ A private space will then be offered by trained pharmacy staff where they can find out if the victim needs to speak to the police or would like help to access support services, such as a domestic abuse helpline.

To raise awareness of the Ask for ANI codeword scheme, the Home Office is encouraging the use of the #YouAreNotAlone hashtag on social media and has produced a poster which can be printed or displayed digitally in public areas. The scheme is not currently available in every pharmacy but is accessible through the 2,300 Boots stores across the UK as well as 255 independent pharmacies. Those seeking help should therefore look for the Ask for ANI poster on display before speaking to a pharmacy colleague. Pharmacies which are not yet participating in the scheme can sign up to receive the required training using the related link below. Further information can be found on the government website linked below or by emailing: AskforANI@homeoffice.gov.uk

NAWP welcomes ANI to address the rise in domestic violence but cautions that not all pharmacies are aware of the scheme. Helen Lewis, NAWP member and PDA Union Regional Official for West England and Wales, said: “One concern is that the way Ask for ANI has been reported in the media implies that victims of abuse could go to any pharmacy for help. Of course, pharmacies are used to assisting people in need so would still help but if the staff at a particular pharmacy have not been properly informed about the scheme and have not received any training, this could put victims of abuse at further risk and could also pose a threat to pharmacy staff themselves.”

Naina Chotai, President of NAWP, said: “Pharmacies were encouraged to become Safe Spaces for victims of domestic abuse in May 2020 but the ANI codeword scheme is new. It is vital that all pharmacies are aware of the scheme. NAWP urges pharmacy employers to sign up to the scheme and to ensure that their staff are fully briefed and trained.”

Nicola Rees, member of NAWP, said: “Many pharmacies are already participating in the Safe Spaces scheme, therefore it is welcome news that in addition, pharmacies can now also provide the Ask for ANI scheme. The availability of the Ask for ANI scheme in community pharmacy is a valuable way in which we are able to support victims of domestic abuse in receiving the immediate emergency assistance they need. Hopefully, all pharmacies will join the scheme soon to ensure that there is consistency across the pharmacy sector.”

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