YELLOW and orange signs have appeared in the windows of businesses in Wallingford and Didcot to mark them as safe havens for the towns' most vulnerable residents.

The Safe Places scheme being launched this week will see those with dementia, learning difficulties, or mental health problems issued with a card that has details of the person to contact if they are in need of help.

The idea is that if someone shows the card in a 'Safe Place' community centre, business or shop, staff will then contact the helper named on the card and keep the vulnerable person safe until their supporter arrives.

Elizabeth Gillespie, cabinet member for community safety at South Oxfordshire District Council which funded the initiative, explained: "Vulnerable people who may experience difficulties in public spaces now have that extra reassurance that support will be available should they need it in Wallingford and Didcot."

She added the goal was to continue to roll-out the scheme across the rest of the district next year.

Safe Places aim to provide designated spaces for anyone to go if they are feeling lost, worried or threatened, and even those who do not have a card can still seek assistance at places displaying a yellow and orange sign.

The scheme has been supported by the South and Vale Community Safety Partnership, Oxfordshire Family Support Network and Age UK Oxfordshire.

Jan Sunman, a volunteer from Oxfordshire Family Support Network, said it had been developed because older family carers said that they wanted the peace of mind of knowing that there were people who would look out for their relatives with a learning disability while out and about.

She added: "The goal is to link up with the national scheme so Wallingford and Didcot can be added to their free app, meaning even people who come to the towns from outside the area know there is that safety net in place."

So far, nine businesses have signed up in Wallingford, including Barclays, Costa and Waitrose, where the scheme was officially launched on Monday with the help of Mayor Mike Kedley.

Tammy Wetherall, manager at Style Acre charity shop, another business taking part, said: "It's going to be amazing for the town to have an option for people who are vulnerable and it is going to be make such a big difference to the people we support.

"I think it is really good way of formalising the existing network we have in the town."

The new initiative is also being supported by Thames Valley Police and Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service, who will both promote it during their interactions with vulnerable people as part of their work.

PCSO Chris Wyatt, who is based in Didcot, said he was looking forward to having the scheme officiallu launch in the town next week, adding: "It is a great idea and will really support us in what we do."

A full list of the Safe Places in each town is available on the district council's website.