A new scheme launched by the Department for Education (DfE) in January, which makes period products free to pupils in schools and colleges across England, has seen an uptake of just under 40% since it began, reports the Free Period group.
The Government-run opt-in scheme includes reusable menstrual cups – the first time environmentally-friendly, plastic-free personal care products have been made widely available to school children – but with some 60% of schools failing to sign up, there are concerns that the initiative’s benefits are going to waste.
Amika George, Free Periods founder, commented to the BBC that the pandemic has been a ‘disaster’ for those who already struggled to afford period products, without household incomes having been ‘squeezed’ in the face of economic uncertainty. George wants to see the Government actively contacting schools who are not yet placing orders via the DfE.
Gemma Abbott, the charity’s director, added that the charity has ‘hardly heard anything’ from the DfE since January.
“The Government … needs to take some responsibility for the fact that more than 60% of eligible schools and colleges have yet to sign up.
“If DfE really is committed to ensuring that ‘no young person’s education is disrupted by their period’, as they said back in January, then they need to make much more effort to ensure that schools and colleges know about the scheme, that they place orders for products and that they distribute those products efficiently and sensitively to students who need them.”
It’s important that vulnerable students are not made to choose to spend their money on period care instead of other essentials like food. Or go without. Young people deserve better
In February, Mooncup’s company director, Kath Clements, told NPN that the brand was working with phs and the DfE to provide sustainable period products to schools in England, and that she hoped the initiative would help ‘break taboos’ around periods as well as educate young people about alternative options to traditional disposable pads and tampons. Now, she adds: “We understand that the timing has been difficult for schools. However, the pandemic and product shortages following stockpiling will have made period poverty affect even more of us. It’s important that vulnerable students are not made to choose to spend their money on period care instead of other essentials like food. Or go without. Young people deserve better.
“It’s in situations like this that the benefits of the reusable Mooncup can be all the more clear. The Mooncup is not just a product for now but the future too. You only need one Mooncup, which can last years and years. There’s no need to stockpile different absorbency pads or tampons, and with no monthly repeat purchase, you save money too.
“The Government has also set a target for schools in England to go single-use plastic free by 2022. With disposable period products made up of up to 90% plastic, the schools should be looking to opt in for more sustainable choices, such as the Mooncup. We urge parents and young people to lobby their schools to make sure their school is signed up to the free period product scheme and to make sure that they get the free Mooncup to which they are entitled.”
Image credit: Bloody Good Period