Domestic abuse victims will be able to “Ask for Ani” at pharmacies nationwide as part of a codeword scheme to indicate they need help.
From Thursday, anyone who is suffering domestic abuse will be able to ask for support without their abusers or other members of the public knowing, The Daily Telegraph reports.
As soon as they “Ask for Ani” they will be led into a private consulting room where they will be put in touch with the police, relevant support services or helplines.
The government-backed scheme is similar to the “Ask for Angela” one launched by the Metropolitan Police in bars, pubs and restaurants to prevent sexual violence.
It follows another initiative launched in May by the charity Hestia which saw safe spaces installed in the consultation rooms of more than 5,000 pharmacies nationwide.
According to figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), one in five of the offences reported during and straight after the first national lockdown were related to domestic abuse.
Forces in England and Wales recorded more than 250,000 domestic violence crimes between March and June last year.
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Meanwhile, the government is urging employers to offer better support to workers experiencing domestic abuse.
Business minister Paul Scully has written an open letter to employers to encourage them to be on the lookout for signs of any of their staff being abused.
He said that “from personal experience” bosses and colleagues have a “unique position” in being able to help domestic abuse survivors.
Signs include sudden changes in behaviour, drops in professional performance or physical marks such as bruising.
The letter comes after a government review, which has recommended a consultation of experts on how best to support survivors at work and ensure they know their employment rights.
It found that stereotyping survivors is still hindering support, despite clear evidence that abuse can happen to anyone of any background.
A working group is also being set up of employers, victims and trade unions.
Gill Dix, of the conciliation service Acas, said of the findings: “We welcome the government’s recognition of the need to support workers who are experiencing domestic abuse.
“The first step for employers during this time must be to provide a safe work space for those at risk from domestic abuse.
“Other practical steps such as introducing a policy and providing training to managers should also be implemented.”
*story by Sky News