Nurses are providing sanitary products for poorer pupils

So-called 'period poverty' is leading to some school nurses having to provide sanitary towels for pupils who cannot afford to buy them.
Sanitary products

School nurses are having to provide sanitary products for some school pupils who cannot afford them.

School nurses have seen a rise in 'period poverty' in UK schools. Picture: iStock

The Local Government Association (LGA) is now considering lobbying the government to provide vouchers for sanitary products for girls who receive free school meals. 

It follows reports made to the RCN and experiences shared by school nurses at the college's annual school nurses' conference on 25 August.

Dire need

Rachel Livsey, a school nurse with Oxleas NHS Foundation Trust in London, told the conference how a 15-year-old girl in a large comprehensive school had approached her for sanitary towels.

'She was homeless and sofa surfing, being supported by social care, but she was in dire need of everything – all toiletries – and literally could not afford anything,' she told the conference in London.

'There could be other girls [who cannot afford sanitary products] that we do not know about. It is probably made worse by not talking about periods.'

Period poverty

Ms Livsey was able to provide sanitary products to the girl from a supply she used in personal, health and social education lessons. But she added: 'If I had not had them, I would have gone out and bought them.'

RCN children and young people: staying healthy forum chair Suzanne Watts said nurses had indicated that there may be other cultural factors that need to be explored to get a fuller picture of why so-called 'period poverty' was happening.

The college confirmed the issue was becoming more widespread, according to reports by school nurses.

Vouchers for sanitary products

RCN professional lead for children and young people's nursing Fiona Smith said: 'This is an issue in schools. I have been contacted by a number of school nurses that have said that this is an issue for teachers and school nurses were purchasing products to take into school.'

The RCN will use a specialist Facebook group page to ask nurses about the issue and gather more evidence.

An LGA spokesperson confirmed the idea of providing sanitary vouchers was in the early stages of research and it was working with the RCN 'to poll the view of school nurses and gauge the scale of the issue'.

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