Blog: community pharmacy – a lifeline to those in need

Today is International Women’s Day and ‘No More’ week – a week organised by UK SAYS NO MORE to raise awareness of domestic and sexual abuse.

In the last week there have been mixed reviews to the Chancellor’s announcement that an additional £19 million will be made available to support domestic abuse services. Some campaigners have expressed that the rise in demand shown throughout lockdown will not be met by this boost in funding. Below the CCA looks at the role of our members in supporting those most in need.

Imagine back to April 2020, the height of the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic, the UK is in an unprecedented national lockdown. With empty supermarket shelves and children needing to be schooled from home, many of us felt the strain. Picture then, being in the same position and trapped at home with an abuser. With nowhere to turn and many doors closed. The lockdown environment was a catalyst for violence in already abusive relations and the occurrence of new abuses. This left many vulnerable people, already cut off from the support of friends, family and colleagues struggling to escape.

In this environment community pharmacies became a lifeline to those who needed it, offering them a ‘safe space’ to reflect and access support and advice.

Domestic abuse can affect anyone. However, ONS statistics in England and Wales show that women are disproportionately impacted.

Women’s Aid explain that abuse can also take many forms including:

  • coercive control,
  • psychological and/or emotional abuse,
  • physical or sexual abuse,
  • Financial or economic abuse,
  • Harassment and stalking,
  • Online or digital abuse.

Therefore, domestic abuse can be invisible and endemic.

The charity Hestia, in partnership with UK SAYS NO MORE, contacted the CCA with a proposal to adapt their successful community-based initiative ‘Safe Spaces’ so that it could be run from pharmacies to provide a resource to those in need. Safe Spaces makes use of the consultation room as a place that anyone can use to take time to access information, including helpline numbers, or space to download and use a mobile app.

On 1 May 2020 Boots UK launched the Safe Spaces scheme across their stores. Today the scheme is available across high street pharmacies including Morrisons, Well, Boots, and Superdrug and across many other independent pharmacy businesses. Additionally, the Community Pharmacy Patient Safety Group (CPPSG) have updated their safeguarding guidance to include advice on Safe Spaces and the Home Office scheme for immediate police support for victims called ‘Ask for ANI.’

Ask for ANI launched in Boots pharmacies and in some independent pharmacies in January 2021. It builds on the lifeline that pharmacies have been offering those who face domestic abuse throughout this pandemic.

We, at the CCA, are proud of the role that our members and the sector have taken in challenging times to respond with speed and innovation to reach those who need it most.

Rebecca Lucas

Policy and Programmes Manager

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