The Dagenham hairdressing salon giving vulnerable women a second chance
- Credit: photo: Arnaud Stephenson
Getting a job can be tough for anyone, but for those with a troubled background it can be virtually impossible.
Now a revolutionary Dagenham hair salon is giving local women with a history of offending or substance misuse the second chance often denied to them.
Sam Purnell, 26, owner of the Ghost Salon, in Beacontree Avenue, launched a training academy after seeing the struggle one girl faced trying to land a place on a local hairdressing course.
She said: “A young woman who’d had a tough time of things came to me for some work experience in the salon, so she could go on an become a hairdresser through college, but no-one would touch her.
“I thought that was really unfair so I’d try and prove a point and set up my own.
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“She was more than capable, just lacking in confidence, and just needed a chance.”
Set up with National Lottery funding, the academy fits in with the probation services across the borough, but also offers help for women at risk from gangs or who may be a victim of domestic abuse.
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Barking and Dagenham has one of the highest proportion of women offenders in London, with women making up between 11-13 per cent of the total offending population compared to the London-wide average of between 9-10.
This is set against high levels of deprivation, social inequality and unemployment and a high rate of domestic violence.
But despite the daunting challenge, Sam admits there’s nothing she would rather be doing.
“For many of these girls, the world seems closed,” she added.
“Often they have issues with self-confidence – in one case even struggled to keep eye-contact.
“But after they realise what they can do and start to relax and enjoy themselves, it’s can be really rewarding to see.”
Along with two days a week in the Ghost Salon, the ten trainees attend a range of workshops to help them address issues in their lives – such as healthy relationships, alcohol awareness and sexual health. There is additional training on literacy, employability and CV writing plus weekly one to one counselling around self esteem and behavioural change.
Ghost Academy is running two more courses for a further 20 trainees in it’s pilot phase, and is in the process of securing long term funding so it can continue.
Former heroin addict Jodie Shea, 26, from Dagenham, spent the past six months switching between prison and living on the streets.
Now living with her parents, she insists life on the straight-and-narrow would be out of the question, had it not been for the salon.
“My last sentence made me realise that I couldn’t keep doing this anymore, I had to turn my life around,” she said.
“Sam’s made everything very easy for us. She’s an amazing woman and I definitely wouldn’t be where I am today without her – I’d be out on the streets again, no doubt.
“It’s an amazing opportunity and I’ve now got something to work towards in my life.
“I’d always wanted to be a hairdresser but no-ones interested in taking on someone who’s been in prison and on drugs.”
Currently four weeks into her NVQ Level One, Jodie dreams of using her own experience to help others in the future, by becoming a teacher at the salon one day.