Ask for ANI is now available in 5000 pharmacies 

Ask for ANI is now available in 5000 pharmacies 

The scheme is being used once every 30 hours and the need for it is predicted to rise.


From today, victims of domestic abuse will be able to access Ask For ANI (Action Needed Immediately) – a codeword scheme backed by the government – in 5,000 pharmacies across the UK, enabling them to contact specialist domestic abuse services for support and advice.  Currently, the scheme is being used once every 30 hours.  

 The increase in the service’s accessibility is due to victims of domestic abuse being able to access Ask For ANI in 200 Superdrug pharmacies across the UK from today which means that a further 8 million people will be within one mile of being able to access the service. Further access to the scheme comes at a critical time as lockdown restrictions start to ease again, with leading domestic abuse charities and the government calling on the public to be vigilant to the signs of domestic abuse.

Ask for ANI, launched by the Home Office in January, provides a simple and discreet way for domestic abuse victims to signal that they need immediate help using a codeword. While 1 in 4 women experience domestic abuse, charities and the government are preparing for an increased demand once the restrictions start to ease. Further access to the scheme comes at a critical time as lockdown restrictions start to ease again, with leading domestic abuse charities and the government calling on the public to be vigilant to the signs of domestic abuse.

 There has previously been an increase in demand for domestic abuse services as lockdown measures have eased, reflecting that victims may be experiencing more severe abuse and a lack of opportunity to seek support during national lockdowns. There was a 65% increase in calls to the National Domestic Abuse Helpline, run by Refuge, between April and June 2020, compared to January-March 2020, coinciding with the first national lockdown and initial lifting of restrictions. Refuge also reported in the month of June alone a 77% increase in calls and more than an 800% increase in web traffic compared with pre-lockdown statistics. In the first week in July they saw a 54% rise in women needing emergency accommodation when compared with the last week in June – the highest number of women needing emergency accommodation since the start of the pandemic.

The Minister for Safeguarding, Victoria Atkins, said: “Our ‘Ask for Ani’ codeword scheme has offered a lifeline to many victims of domestic abuse during this challenging period.  I am so pleased that with Superdrug joining the scheme, more vulnerable people across the country will get urgent help in a safe and discreet way. Throughout this pandemic this Government has invested millions in ensuring that vital services including helplines, counselling and refuge accommodation remain accessible, and our determination to tackle this appalling crime is continuing through the ground-breaking Domestic Abuse Bill which will soon become law.”

 Liz Thompson, Director of External Affairs at SafeLives, said: “Victims of domestic abuse are experts in their own situation and it’s survivors of abuse who first proposed the codeword scheme. We need to give victims as many options as possible to reach out for support, particularly during lockdown, when that might be even harder. It’s great news that Superdrug have signed up to participate in Ask for ANI, as it provides another opportunity for someone to get the help they desperately need. The scheme has already proven itself to be a further vital lifeline. We hope that more retailers take up the scheme so that people everywhere have a route to safety.”

 Superdrug Pharmacy Superintendent, Niamh Mcmillan explains: 

“We are pleased to share that we have worked with the government to make Ask For ANI available across all our 200 pharmacies. Our dedicated pharmacy teams are in a prime position to help people during this incredibly difficult time for them. On accessing Ask for ANI, people will be given access to a private room and given information on how to gain the support that they need.

Information about Ask for ANI
‘Ask for ANI’ is a domestic abuse codeword that stands for Action Needed Immediately. If you are experiencing domestic abuse and need urgent help, you can ‘Ask for Ani’ in participating pharmacies. Retailers will have posters up in store if they are taking part in the scheme so you can be sure that you can use the codeword and get help. Look out for the ‘Ask for ANI’ icon. Once you have given the codeword, a staff member will take you to a private area in the store and will help you to get the support you need. This will include calling 999 for immediate police support, or referring you to national or local support service rather than the police. A phone will be provided.
You can use the codeword if you have children with you or even if you are with your abuser. If you, or someone you know, is experiencing domestic abuse.

The government worked closely with the charity SafeLives and domestic abuse survivors on developing the scheme.