#FreePeriods - Ending #PeriodPoverty

Free period products are to be made available to all schools and colleges in England from next week, as the Department for Education launches its fully funded scheme.

The new scheme is set to give pupils easy access to period products at school or college, helping to break down stigmas and ensure no young person’s education is disrupted by their period. 

From Monday 20 January, schools and colleges across the country will be able to order a range of period products from supplier phs Group, making period products readily available for all young people when they need them.

Millions of period products are being prepared by phs Direct, part of hygiene and washroom services provider phs Group, in a newly refurbished, dedicated warehouse ready to be dispatched ahead of the first orders. Schools and colleges will receive an activation email from phs on Monday 20 January which will enable them to access the purpose-built phs Direct portal and order products for their organisation.

There is a wide range of products from pads and tampons to environmentally-friendly pads and reusable products.

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David Taylor-Smith, CEO of phs Group, said

“We have been busy preparing for the launch of this scheme and we are ready for the first wave of demand. We encourage schools and colleges to look out for their activation email and make their first order so they can start offering free products as soon as possible.

“Period products are a necessity, not a luxury, and we believe providing free products for young people will be a catalyst for change in creating period equality. We are proud to be the supplier for such a worthy scheme.”

This follows the Government’s commitment last year to fully fund period products for all state-funded primary schools, secondary schools and colleges. It also forms part of the Department’s ambition to improve provision of products for young people, helping to support campaigns to break the stigma around periods and raise awareness of menstruation. 

Children and Families Minister Michelle Donelan said:

“Periods are a normal part of everyday life and we do not want young people missing out on lessons because of them.

“We know that it is not easy for everyone to access period products where and when they need them. This scheme will deal with those problems so young people can go about their daily lives without getting caught out if they have come on their period unexpectedly, forgotten to bring products with them or if they can’t afford the products they need.”

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The scheme also comes just months before health education becomes a compulsory for all state funded primary and secondary schools, under new guidance on relationships, sex and health education from September 2020 – to ensure all young people learn about living healthy lives, including menstrual wellbeing.

The Government also introduced the £15 million annual Tampon Tax Fund to support women’s charities – and made a commitment to end period poverty globally by 2030.

Amika George, founder of #FreePeriods, said:

“We have been waiting for this day for a long time!  As a grassroots, student-led movement, Free Periods has been fighting for every single child in this country to be able to go to school without worrying about their next pad or tampon. For the first time in history, this scheme will ensure that becomes a reality. 

“We ask that schools have open conversations with students about what they need and start signing up to the scheme - no child must miss out. Free products in schools will ensure that every child can learn and be their very best, without periods holding them back."

Andrea Cowans, Director of Student Life at Leeds City College, said:

“We’re thrilled to see this Government initiative launch, which will no doubt transform the lives of millions of learners, by ensuring they can stay in class and reach their potential as it has for us over the past three years.

“We launched a period poverty campaign in 2017, and our supply of sanitary products to any student who needs them is now part of college life - last year, we supplied over 7,500 sanitary products to our students through the Learner Support Fund. The impact was immense, increasing attendance and the confidence and dignity of some of our students who couldn’t afford to buy these products themselves.”

Leeds City College student Jenef Ngombo said:

“Sanitary pads are very expensive and period poverty is undeniably a serious issue for young girls and women on low incomes. Young girls often feel embarrassed to ask for help and I think that this is a stigma that needs to be addressed. If there is one thing I could change, it would be that sanitary pads are given out for free to everyone because they are a necessity.”

Nellie Tutton, 15, of Bristol Cathedral Choir School, said:

“I believe this is a very important move in the right direction, this could help young girls all over the country with the issues they face as a consequence of period poverty. Having the sanitary products free and most importantly available for girls already struggling will mean they can feel comfortable and ready to learn so they can get the full education we all deserve.”

Scarlett Kearny, 15 of Bristol Cathedral Choir School, said:

“To now give girls in school free sanitary products is very important and will help out many girls suffering from period poverty. Now, they will be able to go to school knowing they won’t have to worry about their period or where to get products from. They will be able to focus on school and feel comfortable while there.”

Rosamund McNeil, Assistant General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:

“The announcement on the roll-out of period products to all primary and secondary schools and colleges is welcome.

“Period poverty forces girls to miss out on vital time in school. In 2018, over 137,000 children missed school because of their period. One in ten girls are unable to afford products to enable them to leave the house. No girl in the UK should miss out on education because they can’t afford these essential products.

“We think the Government will continue to work to tackle the stigma around periods. Poverty affects different children in different ways, but the Government needs an economic plan to lift every family out of poverty.

“The introduction of menstrual wellbeing as a part of the new statutory Health Education curriculum is a step in the right direction but the Government must ensure schools have access to training and resources to feel confident to use the new curriculum.”

Laurell Jarrett-Anderson, 15, of Bristol Cathedral Choir School, added:

“I believe that period poverty is an issue that so many young girls face and can become a constant worry when in school. Having these products free and available in all schools will be a great accomplishment and relief for all of the girls that have had to suffer from period poverty. We shouldn’t have to worry about not being able to buy a tampon from a machine or have to collect them from an office where it can become an uncomfortable environment. Making them available will make school a happier and more enjoyable place.”

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