Shropshire’s Safeguarding Community Partnership said it hoped pharmacists across the county would take part in the Government’s “Ask for Ani” scheme.
Ask for ANI (Action Needed Immediately) is a codeword scheme developed by the Home Office to provide a discreet way for victims of domestic abuse to signal that they need emergency help from the safety of their local pharmacy.
The code word ‘ANI’ can be given in independent pharmacies and Boots stores across Shropshire.
When a victim uses the codeword or asks for help, a trained pharmacy worker will ask the victim to accompany them to the consultation room.
They will then check whether the victim is in danger and wants the police to be called.
If so, the staff member will offer the use of a phone to dial 999 or make the call on the victim’s behalf. The member of staff can also help the victim access support services such as a national or local domestic abuse helplines.
Boots stores across Shropshire are already signed up to the code-word scheme, and it is expected that more pharmacies will join up in the coming months.
Participating pharmacies will be displaying the Ask for ANI posters in their windows so that people know to go inside for immediate help and support.
Ivan Powell, Independent Chair of Shropshire Safeguarding Community Partnership, said: “Providing a safe space for victims of domestic abuse to disclose their situation and ask for help and support is vitally important, even more so during the current coronavirus lockdown restrictions.
“We fully support this important Ask for ANI initiative in our local pharmacies, and would strongly urge anyone who is experiencing abuse or in fear of it, to come forward. Please do, you are not alone.”
Some pharmacies in the area are already running the Safe Spaces scheme which enables victims of domestic abuse to use the pharmacy consultation room to access information on domestic abuse support services.
The Ask for ANI scheme can work alongside Safe Spaces to support victims who need more immediate assistance to signal that they need help, and for pharmacy staff to direct them to the help they need.
Dean Carroll, Shropshire Council’s Cabinet member with responsibility for adult safeguarding, added: “Schemes such as Safe Spaces and Ask for ANI are critical in helping to protect those suffering from domestic abuse. This code word scheme will allow those at risk or suffering from abuse to discreetly signal they need help.
“Pharmacies can provide a safe place for victims to sound an alarm if they are isolated at home with their abuser and unable to get help in any other way. We want victims to know that you are not alone and that you can get help.
"Please also remember that household isolation and Stay at Home coronavirus restrictions do not apply if you need to leave your home to escape domestic abuse.
“We hope and encourage more pharmacies to sign up to support the scheme and offer more safe spaces across the county.”
Residents are also reminded there are a number of other ways victims can get confidential support, and an advice helpline if they are experiencing domestic and/or sexual violence – although in an emergency, always call the police on 999.
Local support in Shropshire, and Telford and Wrekin, is available through the Shropshire Domestic Abuse Service on 0300 303 1191 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
West Mercia Women’s Aid runs a 24-hour Domestic Abuse Helpline and a live chat service for those who need to talk ‘silently.’, which is available on 0800 783 1359 or by visiting http://www.westmerciawomensaid.org/