Investigation reveals ‘Ask for Ani’ scheme risks failing domestic abuse victims

A scheme designed to help women escape domestic abuse is failing because the staff at pharmacies signed up to the scheme appear to no nothing about it, a powerful investigation by an Oxford Mail journalist has revealed.

Fran Way, digital editor at the Oxford Mail also shared her own experience of watching her mum escape domestic abuse, to illustrate the importance of the ‘Ask Ani’ scheme working.

Launched last year, pharmacies across the UK were urged to take part by the Government, with people who asked for Ani in shops being offered immediate support and advice.

But over a year on, Fran’s investigation revealed that anyone who did try to use the scheme in Oxford was unlikely to get help.

Visiting the 7 chemists taking part in Oxford and asking for Ani, Fran got recognition for the scheme in just one. In two pharmacies, Fran was laughed at. Details of what happened in each chemists were chronicled in the investigation, published last week.

Fran wrote: “There might not be a single person out there who wants to use the ‘Ask for Ani’ scheme in Oxford.

“It’s definitely intimidating walking up to a counter, sometimes empty and sometimes heaving, asking for Ani knowing your world could completely change or you could simply be ignored.

“I was laughed at. Twice. According to the Home Office, more than 100 people across the UK have used this scheme successfully. I can’t help think it might be more that have tried, unsuccessfully.

“To leave an abusive partner is really hard. It’s only when my mum told a social worker that she needed help nearly 20 years ago that police stepped in, despite officers coming to my house countless times after violence to my mum.

“When they helped, after she had reached out, my mum packed our car full of everything we owned, picked me up from school and we moved house that day.

“It’s only now I’m a woman and not a child that I understand the enormity of the situation. She was scared and alone having to uproot her whole life to get us away from danger.”

Fran added: “With figures revealing that domestic abuse is very much in our society, we know that there needs to be many options in place for getting help.”

Andrew Colley, regional editor at Newsquest in Oxfordshire, said: “This exceptional investigation has uncovered a scandal which could have denied victims a much-needed escape route.

“Thank you to Fran for bravely sharing your family’s story and working so hard to force change.

“Journalism done properly like this can impact lives and I’m proud that our regional titles continue a strong history of investigating and campaigning 🗞

“Relentlessly holding authority to account is what we do best — and we do it for those whose voices can’t be heard.”

  • In 2022, Behind Local News aims to celebrate local journalism in all its forms through our 365 Acts of Local Journalism Project. Lets us know what you think should be included. You can email us here or contact us via Twitter on BehindLocalNews or on Facebook here.

>> See the series so far, here

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The stories behind the stories, from the regional press in the UK

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