So many students are missing out on access to the free period product scheme in schools
Only 40% of schools had signed up to this scheme; this means that so many students are missing out, writes Ruth Cadbury MP. | PA Images
Government must extend this scheme with adequate funding and do more to promote the scheme and encourage schools to sign up.
Getting to see the countless acts of community work happening in my own constituency and across the country is one of the most inspiring parts of being an MP.
Last year I met Hounslow Red Box, a charity set up to provide schools with free sanitary products and other items such as underwear and deodorant. The volunteers running the scheme told me about the huge difference they’d made in schools in Hounslow.
The national Red Box project, of which the Hounslow scheme was a part, did great work, in raising awareness about the need for free access to period products. This was coupled with the campaigning work by people such as Amika George and groups like Free Periods, and led to the government agreeing in 2019 to fund a scheme to ensure that all schools in England can access free period products and make them available to students.
It’s helped to reduce the stigma around periods and helped to reduce the amount of missed schooling
I know from speaking to young people locally that this program has been popular. It’s helped to reduce the stigma around periods and helped to reduce the amount of missed schooling. It has really raised awareness about the impact that period poverty has on education, both in England but also around the world. However, it was extremely concerning to see a report earlier this year that only 40% of schools had signed up to this scheme; this means that so many students are missing out.
I’d urge Members to encourage schools in their constituency to sign up via the Free Periods website. The scheme is free and easy to join. So do email local schools and promote the scheme through social media.
Today I am leading an adjournment debate, where I will press the government on its plans for the free period product scheme in schools, as the program and funding only covered this calendar year. Government must not only extend this scheme with an adequate amount of funding, but they must also do more to promote the scheme and encourage schools to sign up.
Covid has had a huge impact on schools and I know that they’ve faced a number of new responsibilities to keep both staff and students safe. That’s why government need to increase awareness about the scheme and make it as easy as possible to sign up. It’s not enough to simply send one email about a new scheme at the start of the year and then expect it to take off with 100% uptake.
I’m looking forward to questioning government about what more they will do to support this scheme and ensure it continues into 2021 and beyond.
With the news last month that Scotland became the first country in the world to guarantee a right to period products, the UK government has the opportunity to step up and show its commitment to its scheme for schools in England.
As Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Period Equality I also look forward to working with colleagues to ensure fair and equal access to period products across the UK.
Ruth Cadbury is the Labour MP for Brentford and Isleworth.