Duchess of Cornwall praises scheme which helped woman escape 20 year abusive relationship

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·Royal Correspondent
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Watch: Duchess of Cornwall praises SafeLives Ask for Ani scheme

The Duchess of Cornwall has praised a scheme which helps people get help to leave domestic abuse situations after hearing about one woman who was able to escape after 20 years.

Camilla heard about the Ask for Ani (assistance needed immediately) scheme, which enables people to seek support at their local pharmacy if they need to leave a dangerous home environment.

The scheme was launched by the government in mid-January, after an idea from Rachel Williams, a pioneer with domestic abuse charity SafeLives, which the duchess is a patron of. 

Camilla held a video call with Williams and Suzanne Jacob, chief executive of SafeLives, to hear about the early success of Ask for ANI, which means people in need of help have access to a trained pharmacist who will assess if they need police intervention, or other domestic abuse support services. 

The conversation will be held in private.

The duchess held a call with Rachel Williams, top left, and Suzanne Jacob, top right, about the Ask for ANI scheme. (Clarence House)
The duchess held a call with Rachel Williams, top left, and Suzanne Jacob, top right, about the Ask for ANI scheme. (Clarence House)

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An average of one person per day has been helped by the initiative already. 

Jacob said: “One of the things that Rachel and the other SafeLives pioneers were talking about right at the start of the first lockdown is, ‘How do we open up new spaces for people to access support?’

“And from there came the Ask for Ani scheme, which is now in over 2,500 Boots stores and over 200 independent pharmacies.

“All of those places opening up their doors, training their teams to be able to just have an initial conversation with somebody.”

Jacob also told the duchess about one person who was able to access the service having been in an abusive relationship for 20 years. 

Committing her help to the scheme, Camilla said: "My heart is well and truly in it so I’d really like to do anything to help all these wonderful people."

The Duchess of Cornwall is a patron of SafeLives after taking time to establish a connection with the charity. (Clarence House)
The Duchess of Cornwall is a patron of SafeLives after taking time to establish a connection with the charity. (Clarence House)

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SafeLives proposed the Ask for Ani scheme to the Home Office with support from the Domestic Abuse Commissioner and Victim’s Commissioner and worked on the initiative with them.

She also gave her praise to Williams for the idea. Williams escaped an abusive relationship after 18 years and has gone on to write a book about her experiences and campaigns with the Welsh and UK government.

She was shot and severely injured after years of abuse by her husband, who went onto take his own life. Her younger son, Jack, took his own life six weeks after she left hospital. 

Camilla said: “You have been such a wonderful spokesman, because, you know, you’ve suffered this terrible abuse and yet you’re prepared to get up and talk about it – and I think that is what is needed.”

She added “I think you ought to have an army of Rachels”.

Ask for Ani is operating in 2,000 pharmacies across the country.

Yvette Cooper, chairman of the Commons Home Affairs Committee, said last week that abuse in lockdown "shows no sign of abating" and that the rise in reports is "deeply troubling".

The National Domestic Abuse Helpline said calls had increased by 34% to 114,986 between April and December compared to 85,771 for the same period in 2019.

:: To speak to Samaritans you can call them for free any time, from any phone on 116 123.

:: To find resources if you are suffering abuse, visit SafeLives

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