Executive approves free period products in NI schools

The Executive has given the go-ahead for the provision of free period products to all schools in Northern Ireland.

Thursday, 17th December 2020, 8:01 pm
There are plans for a campaign to raise awareness of period poverty

Education Minister Peter Weir said they will be “made freely available” in both primary and post-primary schools in 2021/2022.

The pilot scheme is expected to cost £2.6million over three years.

Governments in England, Scotland and Wales already run schemes to provide free period products for schools.

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Scotland recently went further, making products like tampons and sanitary pads available free to anyone who needs them.

Mr Weir said he welcomed the Executive’s pilot scheme decision.

“Nobody should miss out on their education because they cannot afford or access these essential products.

“Providing free period products will help pupils manage their periods confidently at school, reduce anxiety and stress and enable students to focus on their learning.”

Mr Weir added: “The pilot will also tackle the lack of education and the stigma around periods which impacts negatively on young people.”

Period poverty campaigner and Year 13 Strathearn School pupil Ellie Massey said: “My fellow students and I brought the issue of period poverty to our school council earlier this year. It became clear that pupils felt strongly about period poverty and wanted to do something to help those who lacked the means to buy their own period products.”

Stormont education committee chair Chris Lyttle recently presented a petition signed by almost 5,000 people backing the call to the Assembly.

He said he was submitting the petition on behalf of Homeless Period Belfast, urging the move to alleviate period poverty and bring Northern Ireland into line with the rest of the UK.

Katrina McDonnell of Homeless Period Belfast said no young woman’s education should be disrupted by their period.

“Research shows the vast majority of schoolgirls have had their education disrupted by a lack of access to period products.

“Now, more than ever, a free period products scheme in schools would relieve the financial pressure on parents and students to purchase them,” she said.

“Free period products in schools will ensure every young person can learn and be their very best, without the worry of their next pad or tampon holding them back.”