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Girls in Scotland to get free sanitary products to tackle 'period poverty'

Schoolgirls in Scotland will have access to free sanitary products in a bid to tackle 'period poverty', first minister Nicola Sturgeon has pledged.

Schoolgirls in Scotland will have access to free sanitary products in a bid to tackle 'period poverty', Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon has pledged.

Ms Sturgeon made the announcement in a speech to MSPs on the return to Holyrood on 5 September following the summer recess.

She said Scotland would be providing 'real global leadership' on the issue by offering free sanitary products to girls in schools, colleges and universities.

The Scottish Government is currently running a pilot programme which sees women and girls from low-income households in parts of Aberdeen offered free sanitary products.

Vouchers

'I can confirm today that we will provide free access to sanitary products to students in schools, colleges and universities,' Ms Sturgeon said.

'Some local authorities have already made this commitment in relation to schools, so we will now work through the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and with other partners to consider the options for delivery.'

An RCN school nurses' conference last month heard that nurses were handing out sanitary products to girls who could not afford to buy them.

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

Not talking

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.'

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.'

More evidence

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 who have said this is an issue for teachers and that 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 that the idea of providing sanitary vouchers was in the early stages of research and it was working with the RCN 'to poll the views of school nurses and gauge the scale of the issue'.


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