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UK News

Christian domestic abuse charity applauds new 'Ask for Ani' scheme

by Tola Mbakwe

A charity that equips the Church to end domestic abuse has welcomed a new government- backed scheme that will give victims a way to get help. 

Domestic abuse victims will be able to "Ask for Ani" in pharmacies across the UK as part of a codeword scheme backed by the Government, according to reports.

Thousands of pharmacies including Boots are taking part so victims can signal to staff that they need help, The Telegraph said.

It said that, from Thursday, anyone who asks for help will be taken by a staff member to a space such as a consulting room where they can be put in touch with the police or support services and helplines.

Bekah Legg, director of Christian charity Restored told Premier it's a great way to offer more support because may times it's difficult for people living with an abuser to speak up about what's going on. 

"It's very hard for two reasons," she said.  "One is you just don't even know who to speak to who will listen. The other is because often your abusers are controlling you and stopping you. 

"So, to create a system that's simple and easy, where someone can feel confident that somebody at the other end will respond and support and help them is just fantastic. It really simplifies things."

Legg added that in order for the scheme to be effective, pharmacies will have to ensure that staff are trained to respond to a request for help immediately. 

The imitative comes as domestic violence increases across the UK. 

According to the Office for National Statistics, one in five offences recorded by police during and immediately after the first national lockdown in England and Wales involved domestic abuse, according to official figures.

Police recorded more than a quarter of a million offences flagged as domestic abuse related over March to June. 

"I think the increase in domestic abuse has fast tracked some of this work that's been going on in the background for years," Legg said. 

"Women's organisations and domestic abuse organisations have been pushing for reform and pushing for more support. The slight silver lining in the increase is that it's meant that the world can't turn away anymore. The world's had to pay attention, the government's had to pay attention, employers have had to pay attention and churches have had to pay attention."

Restored runs training sessions for churches so they can be more aware of signs of domestic abuse that they may be presented with. 

She added that churches can also use a similar scheme to "Ask for Ani".

"[It's good] for people just to have that basic awareness of what does an abuse look like, how am I spotting somebody in my congregation, and then how could I support them and help them to get to safety."

Meanwhile, employers are being urged to offer support to staff suffering from domestic abuse.

Business minister Paul Scully has written an open letter to employers asking them to take steps to ensure their organisation is spotting signs of domestic abuse and offering help.

Firms are being told that warning signs include changes in behaviour, a sudden drop in performance or physical signs such as bruising.

The Government published the final report from a review into the issue, saying it will now consult on steps that can be taken so survivors can better exercise their employment rights, such as the right to request flexible working.

The report found that stereotyping of people affected by domestic abuse was hindering support, despite clear evidence showing it can happen to anyone, no matter their gender, age, ethnicity or economic status.

A working group is being set up, including employers, domestic abuse victims and trade unions, to establish practical solutions employers can make in the workplace, and to measure their impact on supporting survivors

Listen to Premier's interview with Bekah Legg here: 

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