New 'ask for ANI' scheme sees pharmacies become safe spaces to report domestic abuse

Credit: PA images

Northumbria Police have begun working with local pharmacies to support victims of domestic abuse during lockdown.

Certain Boots stores across the country will take part in the scheme, which has now launched, and will provide support to survivors, and people seeking help.

Stores taking part will have posters both outside and inside their premises advertising the scheme, and police hope more pharmacies and other stores will join the project as time goes on.

Some local branches of Boots already run 'Safe Spaces' which enables victims of domestic abuse to use the pharmacy consultation room to access information on domestic abuse support services.

This new 'Ask for ANI' scheme will work alongside Safe Spaces, but helps victims who need more immediate assistance. To access help, those in need can approach any member of staff in store and ‘Ask for ANI’.

They will be directed to a safe space, where they will be provided support and guidance by a domestic abuse champion and can also contact police on 101 or 999 if in immediate danger.

As we enter our third national lockdown it is more important than ever before that those suffering domestic abuse see our message – you are not alone and help is available.

DCI Claire Wheatley, Northumbria Police Domestic Abuse lead

DCI Claire Wheatley, Northumbria Police's Domestic Abuse lead said: “We are proud to offer our support to the ‘Ask ANI’ initiative. If your home is not a safe environment then we urge you to seek support and please do take advantage of this scheme.

“Please contact police and we will do everything we can do to support you, which can include finding safe accommodation for you and your children or removing abusers from homes.” 

DCI Wheatley added: “I want to be clear – abuse is a choice made by the abuser.

“To those perpetrating abuse – we will take action against you and can and will remove you from your home to stop you committing further harm. I would urge anyone who is worried that their behaviour may be abusive to seek advice from the charity Respect which has a website and helpline.” 

Wherever a victim chooses to turn, I want help to be on hand. I never want a victim to feel they have no one to speak to or that there is no way out, there is.

The good thing about this initiative is that it champions the message that domestic abuse is everyone’s business. If you feel it’s not safe to contact the police from home, or you feel you can’t reach out to a friend or loved one, that’s ok - here’s another way you can ask for help.

Kim McGuinness, Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner

Northumbria Police and Crime Commissioner, Kim McGuinness, said: “Staff working in a number of participating stores across the force area have been trained up so they are in a position to help you access help and support.

“If they are displaying the Ask ANI posters in their window then you will know you can approach their staff to ‘ask for ANI’ - a discreet way to ask for either a police response or help in contacting a helpline or specialist support service.

“Any information shared will be treated confidentially. This is about making things as easy as possible for victims and seizing a moment, an opportunity to ensure victims get the support they need to make life better.”

If you need any help, advice or support around domestic abuse, the following resources are available:

  • The National Domestic Abuse Helpline on 0808 2000 247.

  • The Angelou Centre - domestic abuse support for BAME women in the North East. Phone: 0191 2260394

  • Eva Womens Aid - domestic abuse charity on Teesside. Phone: 07525591971 (Monday to Friday 9am-5pm) or  Email:

  • Harbour - support for people in County Durham, Hartlepool, Stockton, Middlesbrough, Darlington and North Tyneside. Phone: 03000 20 25 25

  • Newcastle Womens Aid. Phone: 0191 2610504.

  • Northumbria Police on 101, or make a report online. In an emergency, always call 999. If you dial 999 and are unable to speak, the emergency operator will ask you to dial 55 and to follow their instruction to quickly put you in touch with police.

  • If you are committing abuse and feel like you need help and want to change, you can contact Respect on 0808 8024040.