The new scheme is set to provide support for the one in 10 girls and young women who cannot afford to buy menstrual products
In a bid to combat period poverty, the government is set to announce the introduction of a free sanitary product scheme across all secondary schools in England. Due to be announced by Philip Hammond, Chancellor of the Exchequer, on Wednesday during the spring statement, the scheme is expected to start from September 2019, and will be funded by the Treasury.
This new move aims to support young women who may miss out on education and other opportunities due to missed days at school, as they are unable to afford sanitary products. The Chancellor is expected to announce that he is asking the Education Secretary, Samian Hinds, and the Minister for Women and Equalities, Penny Mordaunt, to design the scheme to be implemented in all secondary schools across England.
In 2017, Scotland became the first country in the world to provide universal access to free sanitary products for women. In 2017, Scotland went on to make sanitary products available for free in schools, colleges and universities thanks to just over £5m in funding.
Campaigners have pushed for free sanitary products in schools over recent years. Teen activist Amika Georgia created the Free Period campaign over two years ago. To date, they have collected over 270,000 signatures to provide free sanitary products for pupils on free school meals.
Charities such as The Red Box Project have been providing nationwide free menstrual products to schools since period poverty begun making headlines in 2017. Angered by the idea that young people are missing out on education due to a lack of access to sanitary products, The Red Box Project provides free tampons, pads, and tights to schools and colleges across the country. The charity has highlighted a need for further funding to provide free sanitary products for primary schools and colleges.
According to Plan International UK, almost half of girls in the UK have missed an entire day of school due to their period. One in 10 women aged 14-21 is unable to afford sanitary products, with over 137,000 children missing school due to period poverty. 40% of young women have resorted to using toilet roll due to being unable to afford menstrual products. It is estimated that over the course of a woman’s lifetime, menstrual products will cost more than £18,000.
This announcement follows the reveal on March 3 that NHS England patients will be offered free tampons and sanitary products whilst in hospital. Those who need sanitary products while in hospital will be provided with them free of charge from this summer.
This decision followed the reveal by the British Medical Association (BMA) that many hospitals supply razors and shaving foam to men, yet two in every five UK hospitals trusts and health boards do not provide sanitary products when needed. Of the 223 trusts, 187 responded. 104 currently supply sanitary products, 54 only provide them in cases of emergency, and 25 do not supply any at all. None of the trusts asked had a policy on when sanitary products are handed out, while 27 trusts do not have anywhere on-site that patients can purchase sanitary products.
On March 4, the Minister for Women and Equalities and Secretary of State for International Development Penny Mordaunt also announced a new UK government campaign to break the silence and end period poverty globally by 2030.