Hairdressers and barbers in Milton Keynes are being trained in domestic abuse awareness

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Hairdressers and barbers across the city are now being trained in domestic abuse awareness as part of a new police campaign.

The training, part of the 'Cut it Out' campaign, is for students of hair-dressing, barbering and beauty therapies and helps them to spot the signs of domestic abuse and to support their clients to report violence and seek help.

Even Nicky Clarke, a world-famous hair stylist and brand owner, is working with Thames Valley Police to support the campaign. 

Nicky Clarke became involved when he heard of a new training program developed by the Thames Valley Violence Reduction Unit in collaboration with Milton Keynes College and Activate Learning. 

Nicky Clarke has gone on to record social media messages to promote the training to those throughout the wider industry.

With one in four women and one in six men experiencing domestic abuse at some point in their life, the Cut It Out campaign was first launched in Norfolk following the death of Kerri McAuley, who was killed in 2017 by her abusive partner. Before her death, Kerri had disclosed to her hair-dresser that she was the victim of abuse and reached out for support, but the seriousness wasn’t realised.

The Cut It Out campaign recognises that a hair-dresser, barber or beauty therapist is in a position of privilege with their client, not only working physically close to them but also very often, they are someone trusted to talk to or confide in.

Sergeant Claire Furness, a Milton Keynes-based officer working with the Thames Valley Violence Reduction Unit, saw the opportunity to take the campaign further and reach the hair and beauty industry at the earliest stage through their training at local colleges.

The training content was first developed with Milton Keynes College, working with their staff, student, local industry contacts and local domestic abuse charity MK ACT. Students continue to receive the training as part of their courses. Activate Learning has then gone on to develop an online training resource that is now freely available via its website to all other colleges and any professional working in the industry and has the potential to reach thousands.

An animated Sgt Furness features in the training, helping to explore the different sorts of domestic abuse that occur. Not just physical, but emotional, financial and controlling behaviours. The training provides advice on how to encourage someone to make a report, escape abuse and signposts to leading support organisations. 

Sergeant Claire Furness, of Thames Valley Violence Reduction Unit, said:  “I’m passionate in tackling domestic abuse, which causes misery and claims lives. Sadly, there are many hidden victims, often suffering for years before reaching out for help.

“This is why everyone in our community has a role to play; professionals from hair-dressers to plumbers, from employers to neighbours.  Anyone who may see something that they feel isn’t right, or who have a trusted relationship and can provide advice and help someone escape abuse.

“We hope that this training will empower more people to spot the signs and to give that support.  Together we can cut out domestic abuse.”

Head of Hair, Beauty, Hospitality & Motor Vehicle at MK College Maria Bowness, added: “We are proud to offer an inspirational vocational curriculum led by industry partners, providing learners with the skills required for employment. Providing rich experiences that extend from the curriculum is key in supporting our learners’ personal development.

“The Cut It Out project has allowed learners to work with Thames Valley Police and MK ACT. It has provided our Hairdressing & Barbering learners with the knowledge and skills required if they were treating a client who required support. Our learners have gained a valuable understanding of the importance of contributing actively to society and the importance of helping others.”

Nicky Clarke, hair stylist and co-owner of Nicky Clarke Hairdressing, said: “Thames Valley Violence Reduction Unit’s initiative to train hair and beauty students to spot the signs of domestic abuse has my full support.

“Hairdressers have an incredibly unique position of trust with our clients because of the relationship we build with them and it is so important for us to learn how we could potentially help in situations of domestic abuse.

“I will definitely be partaking in and encouraging my staff to complete the training to help wherever we can.”

If you are experiencing domestic abuse, or are worried about someone who may be, you can contact Thames Valley Police. If there is an emergency that’s ongoing or life is in danger call 999 immediately. If you cannot speak, call 999 and dial 55. In a non-emergency case and for general advice call 101. Further information is available on the Thames Valley Police website.