Period poverty petition persuades councillors to consider free sanitary products in city schools

Free sanitary products may be made available in Brighton and Hove schools after councillors agreed to ask for a report.

The move comes after a 1,528-signature petition received cross-party support when it was presented by mum Samantha Whittaker to Brighton and Hove City Council in July.

The petition, calling for free sanitary products to schools to tackle period poverty, was discussed by the council’s neighbourhoods, inclusion, communities and equalities (NICE) committee yesterday afternoon.

Mrs Whittaker said: “You would not expect your child to not have access to toilet paper.”

Now the committee has asked for a report looking at the financial implications as well as opportunities for improved education to help with period poverty.

Labour councillor and committee chair Emma Daniel said: “I know there are a number of ad hoc services under way like the Red Box Project.

“I will request a report to see ways where we can take practical steps and find out the funding impacts.”

Voluntary sector representative Jo Martindale, chief executive of the Hangleton and Knoll Project, told the committee, which met at Hove Town Hall, how for the past 18 months girls and young women have had acess to free sanitary products through youth services.

She said: “We have extended this to adults by putting free products in libraries.

“We get our products from Sainsbury’s and Co-op through sponsorship.”

Research by Plan UK found that girls and young woman feel stigmatised and can experience bullying and often miss school due to not being able to afford sanitary products.

In September the charity, which campaigns against school girls being barred from toilets during their periods, criticised Hastings Academy for forcing an 11-year-old girl to sit in class in bloody clothes.

Research undertaken by Plan UK in 2017 found that:

  • One in seven girls (15 per cent) have struggled to afford menstruation products.
  • More than one in 10 (12 per cent) have had to use items other than menstruation products to stem their menstrual flow (ie, they have had to improvise menstruation towels/tampons).
  • Almost half (48 per cent) are embarrassed by their periods.
  • Only 22 per cent feel comfortable to talk to a teacher about their periods.
  • More than a quarter (26 per cent) said that they did not know what to do when they started their period.
  • One in seven girls (14 per cent) said that they did not know what was happening when they started their period.

Currently the council works with schools to provide products and the Red Box scheme, which encourages people to donate products for distribution within schools, has a collection point at Hove Town Hall.

Red Box project co-ordinator Michelle McCann said: “The Red Box Project ensures that no young person misses school because of their period and that they have access to much-needed products that they currently, through no fault of their own, don’t have access to.

“Not every product works for all people.

“It’s not about the cost of a cheap pack of sanitary wear. Some products work for some people and often women need more than one packet or a variety of products to see them through their period.

“Also these children are often in a situation of poverty or are unable to ask their parents for these products.

“It’s about giving access to much-needed products to those who need it.”

  1. rolivan Reply

    Why should it be just school children free products should be made available to all females via prescription it is not as if they have a choice.

    • Mitchie A Reply

      Yes, in an ideal world but this is a very good start i’d say and should be highly encouraged. Well done to the volunteers and campaigners who are pulling this all together.

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