Lib Dems to fight period poverty by giving out free sanitary products in schools

A few weeks ago, Lorely Burt raised the issue of period poverty in Parliament after it was reported that some girls were missing school because they couldn’t afford to buy sanitary products.

Today the Guardian reports that the party would ensure that school nurses had stocks of pads to give out to all girls:

The party said it would fund the scheme so school nurses could keep a large stock of sanitary products for girls who need them, rather than singling out the teenagers likely to be struggling with the costs and giving out the products to them directly, which campaigners have cautioned could lead to an embarrassing stigma.

The Scottish parliament plans to make it a requirement for schools to provide pads and tampons and a petition was started for the UK government to do the same. A similar scheme was also introduced last year by New York City council, which last year voted unanimously to provide menstrual hygiene products free of charge in public schools, prisons and homeless shelters.

The Lib Dem peer Lorely Burt, the party’s spokesperson for equalities, said it was “disgraceful” that students were skipping school for fear of having to admit they were struggling to afford the products.

“Theresa May says she wants a Britain that works for everyone but actions speak louder than words – rather than tackling this problem she prefers to invest millions in her own pet project of grammar schools,” Burt said.

“The Liberal Democrats would end period poverty immediately by ensuring schoolgirls had access to basic sanitary products, ensuring they can continue their education uninterrupted and with dignity.”

If the other parties won’t follow suit, you have to ask why not. I suspect Labour and the Greens would happily agree. This is something  that Theresa May should be asked directly.

Now, if only she were on a live radio phone in any time soon…. 

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • It’s hard to disagree with this. I’ve always been amazed that sanitary products weren’t free to all women and girls. I’m sure a system could be put in place to make this possible, perhaps done on a repeat prescription type system.

  • The problem with universality is that it would be pretty expensive.

    I can afford to buy mine and have no objection in doing so and it would bother me if these were provided free of charge and, say, a disabled child didn’t get a heating allowance.

  • Perhaps a system where they could be given out on prescription, with the same rules as normal prescriptions. Free to those on benefits, students and children, whilst others would have to pay. I’m obviously not and never have been a young girl, but I would have thought – and I’m obviously guessing – that some young girls may be embarrassed going to a school nurse. It would seem better to me and more private if mum could sort it out. Do they even have school nurses these days? Perhaps I’m over complicating what is a very worthy idea.

  • One of the problems for many girls is that they don’t have a reliable mum at home to sort these things out for them. It’s not just poverty, but chaotic lives in general.

    This might put pressure on a school nurse, and girls may not want to be seen heading in to see her (assuming it is a woman), but I’m sure that over the longer term, the nurse would get to know the students and come to arrangements. There will be no perfect or one-size fits all solution, but I don’t think this would be expensive to implement, and should target those who need the most help.

    As with most new policies, it’s the kind of scheme that would benefit from having a few pilot trials on the go before rolling it out nationally. We should expect the scheme to be modified and adapted as practical issues become clear, so I think at this stage it’s more important to get agreement on the concept.

  • I sympathise with the intention but it all sounds a bit ludicrous to me.

  • Sue Sutherland 10th May '17 - 1:08pm

    Andrew I imagine that you wouldn’t support going back to the times when women had to stay hidden away during their period and yet this is effectively what is happening to these young women. I think it’s your own embarrassment talking rather than these proposals being ludicrous.

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