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Ministers welcome launch of pharmacy codeword scheme for domestic abuse victims

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Health Minister Robin Swann and Justice Minister Naomi Long have welcomed a new scheme launched by the UK Government for victims of domestic abuse to discretely seek help through pharmacies.

The scheme will initially be available in Boots pharmacies, as well as a number of other independent pharmacies. Participating pharmacies will have promotional material on display in store to signal that they are taking part.

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 the 24 hour Domestic and Sexual Abuse Helpline.

As a trusted source of advice and support in towns and villages 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 Ask for ANI scheme was welcomed by Minister Swann: “I am acutely aware of how difficult lockdown has been for those affected by domestic abuse. A trip to the pharmacy may be the only chance victims have to access emergency support. My Department, along with the Department of Justice, has been working closely with the Home Office to help develop the Ask for ANI scheme so that victims can get that support safely and discreetly.

“For anyone who is feeling afraid within their own home because of domestic abuse, please reach out. You are not alone.”

Minister Swann added: “Our community pharmacies play an essential role in delivering health services to the people of Northern Ireland, and this has been particularly evident in the response to the Covid-19 pandemic with pharmacy teams rising to the challenges posed by the emergency to adapt and maintain their services.

“I am delighted that ‘Ask for ANI’ will be available from Boots pharmacies and some independent pharmacies in Northern Ireland and I would encourage other pharmacies to consider joining.”

The Justice Minister Naomi Long said: “Domestic Abuse is an abhorrent crime. The Department is fully conscious of the detrimental impact Covid-19 is having on victims of domestic abuse and their greater vulnerability during this period. The new environment has provided perpetrators with a greater opportunity and ability to enhance their level of coercive control on victims, as well as acts of violence. It is important that those suffering from abuse, violence or the threat of violence in their home reach out and seek help.

“I would encourage those affected by domestic abuse, and who may have limited opportunities to get out alone, to seek help by using this scheme. Through ‘Ask for ANI’ at Boots pharmacies victims of domestic abuse can get help to speak to the police or access the 24hr domestic and sexual abuse helpline. It is particularly important for victims to know that help is available and that they will be believed and supported particularly with the current restrictions in place.”

There will be an ongoing sign-up process open to all pharmacies. Pharmacies that sign up will be provided with promotional material to display in store to signal that they are taking part.

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