From next week, every school and college and England can now order free period products, supplied by phs Direct, under a new scheme to create period equality.
The scheme, fully funded by the Department for Education, makes period products freely available to more than 20,000 schools and colleges in England from Monday January 20, giving easy access to young people who need them.
In the run up to Monday’s launch, phs Direct, part of hygiene and washroom services provider phs Group, has prepared millions of period products 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, enabling 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, organic tampons and reusable products.
Independent research published in a phs white paper reports that nine out of 10 teenage girls believe period poverty is a real issue with a third (32%) admitting either they, or someone they know, has been impacted by period poverty in the last 12 months. Worryingly, nearly half (46%) believe period poverty holds girls back from attending school or college every day with nearly one in 10 state that having to miss school due to the lack of access to period products is the biggest barrier facing young girls at school today. What’s more, nearly a third (30%) went so far as to say they believe period poverty holds girls back from achieving their aspirations. In response, more than three quarters of teenage girls called for free period products to be offered at schools and colleges.
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 pupils free products as soon as possible.
“phs is committed to ending period poverty. As part of this initiative, we commissioned research into the experiences and opinions of girls surrounding period poverty and we found that 52% of girls have missed school or college because of their period. This is clearly unacceptable, and this Government funded programme will go a long way to addressing this. 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. The importance of education cannot be overstated and strong attendance is essential to achieving this.”
The scheme follows the Government’s commitment last year to fully fund period products for all state-funded primary schools, secondary schools and colleges, helping to address period poverty, break down stigmas and ensure no young person’s education is disrupted by their period.
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.”
Girlguiding Advocate Amanda, who along with the rest of the Girlguiding Advocate panel, campaigned for free menstrual products in schools and colleges. Girlguiding Advocate Amanda, 15, said:
“Period poverty impacts thousands of girls all over the UK. Period poverty stops many of us from being able to fully take part in our education. But free menstrual products at school can change that. It means that we can focus on what we’re at school to do: learn. Periods will be one less thing to worry about. This life-changing scheme can help girls enjoy their education, fulfil their potential – and banish the stigma surrounding periods.”
For support, schools and colleges can get in touch with phs Direct by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling the helpline on 01827 255500.