Free sanitary products likely to be offered to all Brighton and Hove schools

One-off funding has been proposed to help the Red Box Project to offer free sanitary products in schools across Brighton and Hove.

The project aims to tackle period poverty by supplying donated sanitary products for schoolgirls.

In Brighton and Hove, “red boxes” are provided in six secondary schools, eight primaries, two special schools and one college.

A report going before Brighton and Hove City Council’s Neighbourhoods, Inclusion, Communities and Equalities Committee next Monday (3 December) proposes allocating £3,620 towards the start-up costs of extending the project to all local schools.

Michelle McCann, one of the project’s three co-ordinators in Brighton and Hove, said: “We are thrilled to have officers that understand the needs of children in our schools and welcome the recommendation to add funds to our project.

“This amount can help us succeed in ensuring that every Brighton school is set up with a ‘red box’ in 2019.

“It means the project will be able to focus on fundraising to top up boxes and implementing the open discussion around being period positive between ourselves, our young people, parents and schools.

“It shows compassion and understanding of period poverty in Brighton and Hove.”

She pointed out cheaper products costing 50p or less will still stretch the budget for less well-off families.

Budget products are also not individually wrapped to help young girls hide their embarrassment.

Mrs McCann said: “At a basic level we don’t want any young person to miss essential school time due to having their period and not having the access to these products.

“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.”

Each “red box” contains a variety of products – a selection of sanitary wear, underwear, wipes and heat pads), giving young people who have access to the box the ability to take what they need without question.

The proposal comes after a petition was presented to a meeting of the full council.

The petition cited a report by Plan International UK, saying that one in ten girls in Britain had been unable to afford period products – and half of all girls have missed an entire day of school because of their period.

The council’s Personal Social Health Education Service is promoting the service to schools.

A community group, the Hangleton and Knoll project, along with the Young People’s Centre and Brighton Women’s Centre, are also providing free sanitary products to women in need across the city.

Sainsbury’s, the Co-Op, Superdrug, Sussex University Students Union, the Hangleton and West Blatchington Food Bank and Brighton Housing Trust’s First Base have all provided period products to food banks.

The Brighton and Hove Emergency Food Network identified the need for period products in 2016, according to the report going before the committee.

Its annual survey last year and this year found that toiletries were the joint highest needs.

The network’s report said: “Twelve of the 16 food banks would like to include more toiletries in their parcels, with comments specifying a need for more period products and nappies.”

The council’s report said that the Emergency Food Network had discussed period poverty at its most recent meeting in November.

It found that demand continues to outstrip supply and that there was a need for awareness-raising that period poverty exists in Brighton and Hove.

There is also a need for more donation points and signposting to places for free products.

The Hygiene Bank has a collection point in the Open Market and is looking to set up others.

Whitehawk Food bank has funding from the Homity Trust to provide “monthlies packs” and FareShare will soon be working with Morrison’s which will be donating period products for distribution by the Emergency Food Network.

Red Box Project donation points are at Hove Town Hall, The Village in Islingword Road, Brighton, and Flock in Sydney Street, Brighton.

The committee is expected to encourage companies across Brighton and Hove to support Red Box.

The project is due to be discussed by the Neighbourhoods, Inclusion, Communities and Equalities Committee at Hove Town Hall next Monday (3 December). The meeting, which is open to the public, is due to start at 4pm.

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