Victims of domestic abuse can now access support from thousands of pharmacies across the UK under a new scheme announced by the Government.
The Ask for Ani scheme allows those at risk or suffering from abuse to discreetly signal that they need help.
By asking for "Ani", a trained pharmacy worker will offer a private space to outline the support available, whether that is through the police or specialist support services.
In a Commons statement, Home Office minister Victoria Atkins said: "Protecting those at risk of abuse and exploitation remains a priority for this Government which is why I am so pleased that today I am able to announce the launch of a new codeword scheme for victims of domestic abuse called 'Ask for Ani'.
"From today, thousands of pharmacies across the UK will provide this service, enabling victims to seek help discreetly.
"Through a signal to a pharmacist, a victim will be provided with a safe space in the pharmacy and taken through the support available to them – whether that is a call to the police or a domestic abuse helpline service.
"The codeword scheme will offer a vital lifeline to all victims, ensuring they get help in a safe and discreet way."
Labour's shadow Home Office minister Jess Phillips raised concerns around a lack of funding for domestic abuse services.
She said: "Domestic abuse and community support services are currently planning for redundancies in March – quite unbelievable in the middle of a global pandemic and a national lockdown.
"The sector, the Labour Party, the domestic abuse and the victims' commissioner have all called repeatedly for sustainable funding for at least the next year.
"The staff being made redundant are the very people the minister needs for 'Ask for Ani' to have any chance of success."
Ms Atkins replied: "The latest figures that I have to hand on the funding that we have committed, both from the charitable funding that was committed in spring last year, as well as the Home Office's additional £2 million fund for the helpline services and web-based services, a total of just under £27 million has been allocated and indeed paid out of Government coffers."
Conservative MP Fay Jones (Brecon and Radnorshire) said a new criminal offence of cyber-flashing needs to be created.
Pictures of the week: January 10 - 16
Pictures of the week: January 10 - 16
Swimmer at Thorpe Bay near Southend in Essex. Heavy snow and freezing rain is set to batter the UK this week, with warnings issued over potential power cuts and travel delays.
A large balloon with Love written on it blocks the staircase of a basement in London, Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021 during England's third national lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
A train passes over a swolen River Great Ouse in Haversham, Buckinghamshire. Heavy snow and freezing rain is set to batter the UK this week, with warnings issued over potential power cuts and travel delays.
An anti-High Speed 2 (HS2) rail line protest banner hangs next to a tree house in the Euston Square Gardens tree protection camp, outside Euston train station, in London, Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. Construction formally began in September on Britain's 106 billion-pound ($140 billion) high-speed railway project, aiming to forge better connections between cities for decades to come. Transport Secretary Grant Shapps defended the project, which had its "shovels in the ground" moment just as the country was wondering whether the over-budget and often-delayed project offered good value at a time when the the COVID-19 pandemic enshrined the idea of working from home. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
Snow in East Ardsley, West Yorkshire. Heavy snow and freezing rain is set to batter the UK this week, with warnings issued over potential power cuts and travel delays.
The River Roding after it burst its banks in Abridge, Essex. Heavy snow and freezing rain is set to batter the UK this week, with warnings issued over potential power cuts and travel delays.
A family play laser tag in a park in Worthing, as the UK continues in lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Cars pass through a flood along Hamilton Road in Leicester, as heavy snow and freezing rain is set to batter the UK this week, with warnings issued over potential power cuts and travel delays.
A staff wearing a face mask and glove clean a train at Paddington station. London has recorded a further 10,020 coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, as ministers refused to rule out further restrictions on the horizon. (Photo by May James / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND - JANUARY 14: A supermarket customer looks at the near empty shelves in Tescos on January 14, 2021 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Supermarkets here are already seeing disruption to food supplies after the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31st, when Northern Ireland remained part of the E.U. single market while GB left. The change will require food products entering NI from Great Britain to receive additional certification and checks at ports. Despite a three-month "grace period," in which supermarkets needn't comply with all EU certification requirements, shoppers are already seeing disruption as supermarkets grapple with the changes. (Photo by Charles McQuillan/Getty Images)
(left to right) Michael McInally, Katie Black, Rhea Black, 10, and Carmyn McInally, 10, sledging at Glencourse Golf Course near Penicuik, Midlothian. Heavy snow and freezing rain is set to batter the UK this week, with warnings issued over potential power cuts and travel delays.
An air ambulance takes off from a helipad on the roof of the Royal London Hospital in east London, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021, during England's third national lockdown since the coronavirus outbreak began. Britain, with over 81,000 dead, has the deadliest virus toll in Europe and the number of hospital beds filled by COVID-19 patients has risen steadily for more than a month. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
FOLKESTONE, UNITED KINGDOM - JANUARY 13: Artwork by Richard Woods in the harbor on January 13, 2021 in Folkestone, United Kingdom. On Monday January 4th England entered its third lockdown due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Schools and colleges moved to online learning, mixing with people outside households and bubbles was curtailed and non-essential food shops closed. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
People walk past a Merchant Seafarers�s War Memorial Sculpture at Cardiff Bay in Wales.
1,332 new cases of the coronavirus have been recorded today bringing the total to 172,879 since the pandemic began. The overall death total now stands at 3,997 in Wales. The infection rate is now 403.5 cases per 100,000 people based on the seven days up to January 7. That is down on the 415 previously reported. (Photo by May James / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
An almost empty Bank district of London, Wednesday, Jan. 13, 2021 during England's third national lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)
Sheffield United's Billy Sharp scores his side's first goal from the penalty spot during the English Premier League soccer match between Sheffield United and Newcastle United at the Bramall Lane stadium in Sheffield, England, Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021. (Oli Scarff/Pool via AP)
A shopper purchases cheese from Mons Cheesemongers at Borough Market, London, which has become the first outdoor space in the UK to legally enforce the wearing of face masks for all customers and stallholders.
One of Glasgow's best-know murals, by street artist Smug, depicts a modern-day St Mungo which references the story of the Bird That Never Flew. January 13 is the feast day of St Mungo who is the patron saint and founder of the City of Glasgow. (Photo by Jane Barlow/PA Images via Getty Images)
A woman lays a floral tribute at the David Bowie mural in Brixton, south London on the fifth anniversary of the singer's death, Sunday Jan. 10, 2021. The singer-songwriter Bowie died of liver cancer at his home in New York, USA, on 10 January 2016. (Jonathan Brady/PA via AP)
A person walks a dog at sunrise on the beach in Scarbourough, North Yorkshire. (Photo by Danny Lawson/PA Images via Getty Images)
Medical staff treat an arriving patient at the Royal London Hospital in London, Monday, Jan. 11, 2021 during England's third national lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus. The government has imposed a national lockdown while allowing schools to open, with freedom to exercise and shop for food and essential items.(AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Graffiti to say thank you to NHS is seen on a street in Wales. (Photo by May James / SOPA Images/Sipa USA)
West Ham's Mark Noble, right, tries to block a shot from Stockport County's Liam Hogan during the English FA Cup third round soccer match between Stockport County and West Ham United at Edgeley Park in Stockport, England, Monday, Jan. 11, 2021. (Martin Rickett/Pool via AP)
Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson talks to Hazel and John Watson at Ashton Gate Stadium in Bristol, England, Monday Jan. 11, 2021. The center is one of the seven mass vaccination centers now opened to the general public as the government continues to ramp up the vaccination programme against Covid-19. (Eddie Mulholland/Pool via AP)
CROSBY, ENGLAND - JANUARY 10: Gareth Bale of Tottenham goes past Niall Cummins of Mafrine during the FA Cup Third Round match between Marine and Tottenham Hotspur at Rossett Park on January 10, 2021 in Crosby, England. Sporting stadiums around England remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images)
Two women swim as a ferry boat approaches the harbour at Dover, south England, Monday Jan. 11, 2021, during the third national lockdown to curb the spread of coronavirus. The government has imposed a national lockdown while allowing schools to open, with freedom to exercise and shop for food and essential items. (Gareth Fuller/PA via AP)
CROSBY, ENGLAND - JANUARY 10: A policeman stands in-front of Newport fans prior to the FA Cup Third Round match between Marine and Tottenham Hotspur at Rossett Park on January 10, 2021 in Crosby, England. Sporting stadiums around England remain under strict restrictions due to the Coronavirus Pandemic as Government social distancing laws prohibit fans inside venues resulting in games being played behind closed doors. (Photo by Tottenham Hotspur FC/Tottenham Hotspur FC via Getty Images)
TOPSHOT - Brighton's English goalkeeper Jason Steele saves a penalty from Newport County's Welsh defender Liam Shephard (not seen) during the penalty shoot-out in the English FA Cup third round football match between Newport County and Brighton and Hove Albion at Rodney Parade in Newport, south Wales on January 10, 2021. (Photo by Nick Potts / POOL / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE. No use with unauthorized audio, video, data, fixture lists, club/league logos or 'live' services. Online in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No video emulation. Social media in-match use limited to 120 images. An additional 40 images may be used in extra time. No use in betting publications, games or single club/league/player publications. / (Photo by NICK POTTS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
A grey seal and her pup on the beach at Horsey Gap in Norfolk, England, Sunday Jan. 10, 2021. A group monitoring the seals in the national park on England's east coast have recorded over 2000 seal births this season, with police patrolling the area to deter visitors during the current coronavirus lockdown. (Joe Giddens/PA via AP)
A woman talks to a healthcare worker before she receives an injection of a Covid-19 vaccine at the NHS vaccine centre that has been set up at the Centre for Life in Times Square, Newcastle. The centre is one of the seven mass vaccination centres now opened to the general public as the government continues to ramp up the vaccination programme against Covid-19. (Photo by Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images)
Discover More Like This
BACK TO SLIDE
Cyber-flashing is when a person is sent an unsolicited sexual image on their mobile device by a stranger nearby through AirDrop, a file-sharing function on iPhones. Victims are often targeted on public transport due to the technology's short range.
Ms Jones told MPs: "The scourge of cyber-flashing – where unwanted and unsolicited indecent photographs are distributed to mobile devices – needs to be made a criminal offence."
Responding, Ms Atkins said: "We are running a call for evidence at the moment on producing a new violence against women and girls strategy," adding: "I am very, very aware of the offence about which she speaks and I very much want those sorts of 21st-century online crimes to be dealt with."
Conservative Dehenna Davison (Bishop Auckland) raised concerns about the impact of Covid-19 on refuges, asking: "Can the minister assure me that those providing domestic abuse refuge services will be considered for the priority list in the next phase of the vaccine rollout to help ensure there are no gaps in support for domestic abuse victims because of Covid?"
Ms Atkins noted this was an "important" point, and said officials will draw up a priority list for the second phase of the vaccine process.
"I've very much taken her urging on board and we will, I'm sure in due course, consider her points and others in this regard," Ms Atkins added.
Later, Labour MP Liz Twist (Blaydon) said: "Will the minister look again at introducing a statutory duty on public authorities to train frontline staff to recognise the signs of domestic abuse?"
Ms Atkins replied: "I see this as very much part of our overall efforts to ensure that people understand what domestic abuse is, the many forms it can take, and how it is everyone's business."