HAIRDRESSERS are being urged to unite as part of a campaign to make a North-East town more dementia-friendly.

The call has come from the Mayor of Darlington, Councillor Chris McEwan, who sees the town’s large network of hairdressers and barbers as an important community hub.

“Hairdressers are a really valuable frontline resource in supporting the community because they regularly interact with customers and are, therefore, ideally placed to notice changes in behaviour.

“We have a lot of hairdressers in Darlington, and it struck me that they would be excellent community champions in helping the town to be more dementia-friendly.”

Councillor McEwan has made increasing awareness of dementia a priority during his mayoral year and has worked closely with Dementia Friendly Darlington.

His challenge to hairdressers comes ahead of the Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Action Week which runs from May 17 to May 23.

He is asking hairdressing and barbers businesses to identify one member of staff to either undertake a 30-minute online training session on May 20 at 12 noon, or commit to place someone on the course within a month.

The Mayor is also asking hairdressing businesses to consider asking customers to make a voluntary £1 donation towards his fundraising campaign to help Darlington become a dementia-friendly community.

One of the first hairdressers to sign up is Nigel Dowson, who owns the Jigsaw salon, in Gladstone Street.

Nigel, who has been a hairdresser for 45 years and launched his own business 32 years ago, said: “Every one of us will be touched by dementia in some way, so I’m delighted to support this campaign by the Mayor.

“We see our clients on a very regular basis, and the nature of the hairdressing business, is that you have lots of conversations and get to know them well. There have been times when we’ve noticed changes that have sounded alarm bells, so this initiative is spot on.”

Caitlin Brown, who joined Jigsaw as an apprentice and has been qualified for 10 years, will undertake the training. She said: “I’m always keen to increase my awareness of customers’ needs, so I’m proud to be taking part.”

Richard Bland, managing director of Head Quarters Barbers & Beverages, is also backing the campaign. He said: “Many of us within the industry have seen our regular customers over the years be touched by dementia in some way, whether it’s a long-standing client or a family member. We are part of the social life of our customers, we have a unique relationship, and part of their life is their enjoyable visits to our many salons and barbers. I, therefore, welcome this wonderful initiative, and urge everyone to get involved.”

• Any hairdressers or barbers interested in being involved should email the Mayor at: