Fewer Than Half Of Schools Accessed A Scheme To Combat Period Poverty – This Needs To Change

With a new study finding over 1 million girls in the UK have struggled to afford or access period products during the pandemic, this Menstrual Hygiene Day, women and girls need to be made aware of this scheme.


by Anna Silverman |
Updated on

Last January, a Department of Education scheme which makes free period products available for state-funded primary and secondary schools and colleges in England was launched. Great! For too long period povertyin this country has urgently needed to be tackled and too many have been left to suffer the indignity of being unable to afford basic essentials like sanitary pads and tampons.

But fewer than half (48%) of all eligible organisations have accessed the scheme so far. The Government says this is lower than expected. All schools and colleges were provided with information on how to place orders when it launched in 2020, and again in January 2021. And yet, take up has remained low - probably due to school and college openings being so restricted because of the pandemic last year.

The scheme is demand-led, which means schools and colleges can order the products they need when they need them. With many unable to go to school in 2020 and earlier this year it means it’s possible those who need the scheme are unaware it even exists. This Menstrual Hygiene Day – and now schools are back open - we need to spread the word.

We know the need is there. More than a third (36%) of girls aged 14-21 in the UK have struggled to afford or access period products during the Coronavirus pandemic, according to anew survey released today by international children’s charity Plan International UK.

That is equivalent to over one million girls in the UK. Half of these girls did not have enough money to buy period products at all at some point over the past year. Three quarters (73%) of those had to use toilet paper as an alternative to period products like pads.

Of the girls who found it difficult to afford period products but were able to buy them, some girls said they had to cut back on other essential items like food (30%), hygiene products like soap or toothpaste (23%) and clothing (39%).

Additionally, in 2018 The Department for Education’s omnibus survey suggested that 14% of female college students and 6% of female school pupils had been unable to access period products in the last 12 months due to affordability. Some 83% of secondary school leaders made free period products available at their school. Of these, 26% used charitable donations and 17% said teachers funded products themselves.

Speaking to Grazia, Children and Families Minister Vicky Ford said the Government have introduced the scheme so that no pupils miss out on any of their education because of their period. ‘Now that pupils are back in their classrooms, I hope we can see the full impact and benefits it can bring to young people,’ she says. ‘It’s so important to talk about women’s health and our experiences, which for too long have gone under the radar.’

Local food banks often also provide sanitary products for free.

The Government’s call for evidence for their Women’s Health Strategyis still open and they urge anyone whose health issues have impacted them to get in touch to help them build a health system that works better for women.

The pandemic clearly deepened the existing problem of period-poverty in this country. Now we need to spread the word so those who can’t afford sanitary products know exactly where they can access them for free. If you’re in need, check in with your school, college or local food bank. If you're not directly affected, do your bit to share the news of these schemes so no-one ever has to suffer without pads or tampons when they need them.

How the Government’s period products scheme works

Organisations (schools, colleges etc) can order a range of period products from the supplier phs, making period products readily available for all young people when they need them.

There are a wide range of products organisations can order, including tampons, pads, reusable pads, and mooncups and these vary in type, size and brand. These products are delivered free of charge.

Organisations have the freedom to decide on how they distribute products but must ensure that the needs of all learners are met.

Organisations can access the scheme by logging into their phs portal

Organisations can choose when and how they order but the scheme does ask them to consider the environmental impact of frequent deliveries.

READ MORE: Is Mask Poverty The New Period Poverty?

Where to buy period subscription boxes


Where to buy period subscription boxes

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CREDIT: Callaly


Callaly's mix and match period products are perfect for people who like to chop and change their period care. You can mix tampons, day pads and night pads in their subscription box, all made from soft organic cotton and free from dyes and pesticides. They've also invented a pretty cool solution for all the panty liner AND tampon people out there - a tampliner. The brand new product was designed by a gynaecologist and is made with organic materials. Their period boxes start from £6.

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Ohne creates completely game-changing period products. Their tampons are 100% organic, bleach free, biodegradable and delivered to your door for free. There' s no tampon tax, they provide superior protection from leaks and they come in letterbox friendly packaging. They also sell cramp-busting CBD oil that honestly could be life changing. You can choose from applicator and non-applicator tampons, starting from £4.80 for a box of 12.

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DAME's organic tampon subscription comes with a twist - the world's first reusable tampon applicator. DAME has also achieved carbon neutral certification and their tampons are biodegradable and hypoallergenic. Pretty impressive. Their subscription packs start at £7.99 for 34 organic tampons.

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CREDIT: Organic Mondays

Organic Mondays

The women behind Organic Mondays were fed up of single-use plastic period products, so they made their own eco-friendly versions. 1% of their turnover goes towards environmental and social causes too. The boxes, panty liners, pads and tampons are all plastic-free and come in gorgeous plastic-free packaging. Their box of 25 mixed period products starts from £13.50 with free delivery.

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Daye believes tampons should fit your body better, and their period products are designed to do just that. They produce both "naked" and CBD infused tampons and are completely transparent about the cost of each element of their products, from shipping to testing. Their CBD tampons soothe cramps without the need for separate period pain products - dreamy. The boxes start from £6 for 12 naked tampons.

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Freda, who also produce organic period product subscription boxes, champion both the women using the boxes and women in need. The company's founder, Affi, wanted to bust through unnecessary chemicals and patronising marketing and create chemical-free period products with profits that go towards alleviating poverty. Their tampons and pads are made from 100% eco-friendly and renewable materials and boxes start from £3.50 a month.

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CREDIT: Hey Girls

Hey Girls

Hey Girls believes that access to period products is a right, not a privilege, and so for every box of their tampons or pads sold, they give away a box to a person who menstruates in need. Their products are chlorine and bleach free, environmentally friendly and tackle period poverty in the UK - what's not to love? Boxes start at £8.55 and come every three months. They also sell menstrual cups and reusable pads, if that's your jam.

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TOTM offers period care your way - you can choose the mix of products to suit your flow, as well as when and how often they're delivered. All their products are made from organic cotton and are free from chlorine and bleach. The packaging is cute and slim enough to fit through your letterbox and a box of tampons starts at just £2.60. They also sell gorgeous accessories like compact mirrors and a pouch to keep all your period products safe.

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CREDIT: Monthlies


If you're after a super flexible plan, Monthlies has a great selection of organic period products that deliver to your door within a week, and then every 28 days. Monthlies not only provide super flexible organic period care boxes, they donate 20% of profits to charitable causes. Thanks to supporters, they donate period products and funds widely, from feminist film festivals to food banks. Their boxes start from £4 for ten items every 4 weeks.

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&SISTERS provides 100% organic, waste-free period products in gorgeous packaging for every type of flow. Their tampons and pads are hypoallergenic and you can order just once, monthly or quarterly to suit your cycle. As well as making top notch eco-friendly period care, 10% of &SISTERS' profits are donated to support women's health, education and economic empowerment across the globe. They also sell menstrual cups in three different sizes in yet again more brilliant packaging. Boxes of naked tampons start from £6.08 for 16.

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NuFlo's organic pads and tampons are 100% plastic and chlorine free and are wrapped in (cute) biodegradable wrappers. You can pick and choose the contents of your box to suit your flow, or choose one of their menstrual cups or reusable pads. NuFlo also works with Solace, an organisation providing refuge and advice to women suffering from violence and abuse, as well as Friends of Buburi, a charity operating in Western Kenya. Their boxes start at 4.49.

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CREDIT: Closer

Blob Box

This is more than a period subscription box, this is a period subscription box built around self-care. Every three months you'll have a Light Blobber Box, Medium Blobber Box or a Heavy Blobber Box arrive at your door that is tailored around your flow. As well as selecting your sanitary product of choice, you can pick your preferred brand - putting you at the heart of this box. The goodies don't stop there! The box also includes five to ten beauty treats, the option to buy a one-off box and earn Blob rewards points. Plus, Blob Box donates 1% of revenue sales to Free Periods- a charity that fights to end period poverty in UK schools.

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