Periods are a normal part of life. Over half the population will menstruate every month for over half of their life. It is increasingly recognised that good menstrual health is an essential component to wellbeing.
Period poverty is the lack of access to sanitary products due to financial constraints. A survey conducted by Plan International UK reports that one in ten girls have been unable to afford sanitary products; one in seven have had to ask to borrow sanitary wear from a friend due to affordability issues; and one in ten have had to improvise sanitary wear. It is estimated that currently over 137,000 children across the UK have missed a day of school due to period poverty.
Across the UK, 5% VAT is added to sanitary products, including tampons, pads and towels.
In 2017, Nursing Standard reported the growing incidents of school nurses buying sanitary products to keep pupils in school. Foodbanks have also been relied upon to provide sanitary products for women and families.
In January this year, the NHS in England committed to providing free sanitary products to women and girls being cared for in hospitals. Menstrual hygiene is fundamental to providing dignified care. Local authorities across England have started to offer free sanitary products in their buildings for both staff and users. Stoke-on-Trent Council will be stocking free sanitary products in its buildings and a pilot scheme undertaken by Leeds City Council is currently trialling free products in some schools in their district. Some national supermarkets have also chosen to cut prices, or pay the 5% tax themselves to increase affordability. In April 2019, the UK Government have announced their intention to provide sanitary products to schools in England but further reassurance is needed that this will include other places of study including universities.
Extra funding to help tackle period poverty by expanding the number of places where free sanitary products are available has been announced by the Scottish Government. A total of £4m is being made available to councils in Scotland to work in partnership with other organisations to meet local needs. This follows the Scottish Government’s commitment of £5.2m to make free sanitary products available to students in schools, colleges and universities across Scotland from August 2018.
North Ayrshire council in Scotland is the first local authority in the UK to provide free sanitary products in all public buildings.
The Scottish Government has committed to providing access to free sanitary products to staff and visitors in Scottish Government buildings to help ensure that lack of access to products does not impact on an individual’s ability to fully participate in Scottish Government business, and to set an example for other public sector bodies in Scotland.
Last September, Derry City and Strabane District Council became the first local authority in Northern Ireland to offer free sanitary products in some of its public buildings.
In Wales, the Welsh Government has pledged £1m to help address period poverty, and improve school facilities to ensure dignity for girls and young women. Local authorities are receiving funding to help tackle period poverty in areas where levels of deprivation are highest, whilst further funding is being invested to improve facilities and equipment in schools and to ensure access to good sanitary facilities for all children and young people who need them.
Main Hall, ACC Liverpool , Kings Dock , Liverpool Waterfront , Liverpool , L3 4FP
Page last updated - 21/10/2019