In a bid to end period poverty in the UK, the government has announced it will provide free sanitary products in secondary schools and colleges across England from the beginning of the next school year. The Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond delivered the decision during his spring statement on March 13.
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The scheme has been welcomed by long-standing campaigners calling for government action to help girls from low-income families to have access to the menstrual products, and will echo the successful model that has already been rolled out in Scotland – which, in 2018, became the first country in the world to make sanitary products free for all in its schools, colleges and universities. In 2017, after surveying 1,000 girls and women aged 14 to 21, Plan International found that as many as one in 10 girls are currently unable to afford sanitary products – with 12 per cent having to improvise their own sanitary pads and tampons – resulting in girls missing school.
The announcement comes as the NHS pledges to make sanitary products free for all hospital patients. “This is a victory for all those who have campaigned for an end to period poverty,” said Dawn Butler, the shadow minister for women and equalities, of Hammond’s announcement. “I set out Labour’s support for free sanitary products in secondary schools at a Labour conference in 2017, so we’re pleased that the government has adopted yet another Labour policy.”
However, some campaigners are calling for the pledge to be extended to primary schools, too. “We need this scheme to be extended to all children in full-time compulsory education, including primary schools, so that every child can access their education regardless of their age,” wrote Amika George, who started campaigning on period poverty in 2017, in the Independent.