BEAUTY professionals in Oxford are being trained to spot the signs of domestic abuse.

Salons up and down Oxfordshire are welcoming clients from today with new strict safety measures in place.

However, Popham Hairdressing, which runs three sites based in Jericho, Summertown and North Parade, has taken a step further in protecting clients and assuring them that they 'are not alone'.

Hairdressers have become places for sharing and manager Sam Popham wanted to ensure that his staff are trained to spot potential signs of domestic abuse.

The coaching helps workers know what to do if a customer talks about domestic abuse or shows signs of physical, emotional or financial abuse, and how to refer people for help.

The innovative way to harness the often intimate relationship between beauty professionals and clients is provided by Behind the Mask.

Mr Popham, who runs the family business with his mother Shirley, compared the approach to the 'Ask for Angela' campaign used in bars from people who feel unsafe and want to get away from potentially dangerous dates.

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The 28-year-old manager said: "A lot of women who visit their hairdressers will only be allowed to go out for that.

"All staff and managers have been asked to take the domestic abuse training as we must be prepared at all times to use the knowledge if we feel that the customer is in danger.

"Sadly, there is not a lot we can do as not all situations are the same and sometimes trying to help somebody will do more harm than good.

"This is why we are learning."

Mr Popham also implored other businesses to embrace the opportunity and get the vital training, which he said 'can literally save lives'.

Victims are often made to feel ashamed or responsible for what is happening to them and even some basic guidance could lead to potentially life-changing conversations.

In May local authorities recorded a dramatic drop in reports of domestic abuse in Oxfordshire.

The number of police reports of violence at people’s homes dropped by as much as 50 per cent after the start of lockdown on March 23.

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However, Oxfordshire's strategic lead officer on the subject Sarah Carter warned that 'the abuse is still there but the support is not being accessed' as people were locked in with their abusers.

A report to the board said the initial drop in police call-out and referrals to the council was between 30 per cent and 50 per cent in the first two weeks.

According to Citizens Advice domestic abuse is behaviour from a family member, partner or ex-partner that is controlling, coercive, threatening, violent or abusive.

It can happen to men or women, and it includes psychological, physical, sexual, financial and emotional abuse.

Helplines, refuges and other support services are still operating during the pandemic.

The Oxfordshire Domestic Abuse Service, operated by A2 Dominion, gives free advice to adults in the city.

Victims can call on 0800 7310 055 on Monday to Friday between 10am and 7pm, or email