Police and Crime Commissioner for Cheshire, John Dwyer, and Chief Constable Mark Roberts are urging Cheshire pharmacies to support a government scheme that enables victims of domestic abuse to access much needed support.
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 national or local domestic abuse helplines.
As essential retailers across the county, 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.
Chief Constable Mark Roberts said: "Pharmacies can be a safe haven and are trusted by our communities, making them an ideal partner to help us tackle this serious crime.
"We are very conscious that lockdown restrictions have been 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.”
Cheshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner John Dwyer added: “It can be very difficult for victims of domestic abuse to seek the help they need.
"There is help out there, from both the police and domestic abuse agencies across Cheshire, but often victims initially need the confidence to access that help and reassurance from a trusted source such as their local pharmacy."
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.
Detective Chief Superintendent Denise Worth explained: “Ask for Ani runs in tandem with those initiatives we already have in place, such as our Open The Door campaign where we work with domestic abuse agencies, local authority partners and Cheshire Fire and Rescue Service. Ask for ANI is a voluntary scheme, led by participating pharmacies, in which they will display posters to show they are taking part and are a safe space for victims of domestic abuse.
“When police receive a report of ANI from a pharmacy, we will respond to this report and safeguard the victim in need. This is another way we can support those who are affected by domestic abuse.”
The scheme was initially proposed by survivors as something that would have helped them. It is already available through the 2,300 Boots stores across the UK as well as 255 independent pharmacies across the country. 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.
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 give them a safe space to visit:
where they can find domestic abuse agencies in their area.
The Force has also been hosting regular 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 know someone, or they are themselves, suffering domestic abuse can report it online at www.cheshire.police.uk, by calling Cheshire Police on 101 (always call 999 in an emergency situation), by reporting it at a police helpdesk or by going to:
to find support in their locality.