The mobile salon offering hope, community and free haircuts to people in need

East Ayrshire project aimed at empowering people who are homeless, struggling with addiction or facing financial hardship.

Christine steps into the Cut and Connect van and receives a warm greeting from its sole hairdresser. 

The mum-of-four from Auchinleck in East Ayrshire has visited just once before but she chats away to Suzie Nimmo as though they are old friends. 

Christine tells Suzie she recently bought new shoes for one of the kids, and about the barbecues she’s enjoyed in the garden that week.

From the outside, you wouldn’t guess that Christine struggled to leave the house for years. 

“I’m just off drugs, I was taking speed for 28 years,” she told Scotland Tonight.

“I wasn’t going out the house, wasn’t eating, and my body was just drained. But everybody’s saying I’m healthier now, working.”

STV News

Cut and Connect was set up in March by the charity East Ayrshire Churches Homelessness Action (EACHa), after two years of fundraising and is aimed at empowering people who are homeless, struggling with addiction or facing financial hardship.

It identified that support for vulnerable people wasn’t always coming directly to them, and that there was an opportunity to go straight into their communities.

As a result, they bought a van so they could provide a luxury mobile hairdressing and barbering service – and all for free.

Trustee Gayle Watson said: “Everybody needs their hair cut. But they maybe don’t want to admit they then need support for other services.

“But with the chat, the ‘cut’ and the ‘connect’ from the van we’re hoping that we’re able to identify other support that people may need.”

Gayle Watson.STV News

Christine was put in touch by the Auchinleck Community Development Initiative, where she has been attending support sessions for women with drug and alcohol addiction.

Before going to the Cut and Connect van, she hadn’t had her haircut professionally for around 20 years as she found the salon to be a daunting experience:

She said: “Not knowing anybody when you’re sitting there, and they’re maybe saying things about you,” she said. “But I’m actually quite glad [Cut and Connect] comes here.” 

Suzie has worked in the industry for 24 years, but said making the switch from the red carpet to the road made perfect sense.

She said: “In this job, it’s more relaxed. It’s more about spending time with that person, giving them your time, giving them somebody to talk to, and also giving them a nice haircut at the end of the day. 

“A lot of people say that they will open up to their hairdresser before they speak to their close ones. So yeah, we’re like a therapist as well. 

“People would look at it as ‘how can it make a difference, a small haircut?’ But for the likes of people who may be struggling with mental health or things like that, every haircut goes a long way.”

The service is being supported by Police Scotland and the NHS.

Sergeant Paul Tomkinson.STV News

Sergeant Paul Tomkinson helped to set it up after finding many people who needed help were reluctant to engage with the authorities.

He explained: “Initially there was a kind of fear. There was a stigma from some people towards the police, which is something we’re really keen to break down to pull us all together. 

“Ultimately we can’t police the community without knowing what the community needs. There was somebody who had a very undesirable view of the police who now calls us by our first names. 

“They had experience of the criminal justice system, but they see us in a different light now.”

The Cut and Connect van supports vulnerable people in East Ayrshire.STV News

Gayle says that within the first two months of launching, the van is almost at capacity already.

She hopes they can build on the success they’ve already had, and roll the scheme out nationally.

“We’ve created a blueprint here. We’ve set up the van and we would love to see it in all different areas, for every community to have one.

“Obviously we are going to be saturated, and we’ll only be able to service our own community, but it would be great if we saw it as a franchise moving nationally.”

Watch the full report on Scotland Tonight: Haircuts with Heart on the STV Player.

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