Hard for free period products to be 'discreet' in schools

Generic stock photo of a woman with a tampon in her hand. See PA Feature HEALTH Periods. Picture cre

Free period packs are available in Suffolk schools. - Credit: Press Association Images

Children could be "embarrassed" to ask for free period products in schools as the cost of living crisis continues to hit Ipswich and Suffolk. 

A Suffolk charity has warned that families are facing such "pressure" from higher fuel and food prices that they do not need an additional worry of sanitary goods. 

Tara Spence, chief executive of the charity Home-Start in Suffolk, said it is still difficult to get own-brand sanitary towels and tampons in stores. 

She explained that since the pandemic began the cheaper around 60p period products have not been as available as the higher-priced named brands, costing an estimated £1.20. 

"The effect could be a meal for one person," Ms Spence said. 

In 2020, the government started the period product scheme for schools and colleges in England, which has led to a 77% take-up rate in Suffolk since the scheme began two years ago. 

It provided on average £279 for each institution that order them in 2021. 

CEO of Home-Start Suffolk Tara Spence

CEO of Home-Start Suffolk Tara Spence - Credit: Home-Start Suffolk

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Ms Spence added: "It's 2020 and still you get lots who see it as an embarrassment. 

"How many children would be comfortable? It's not always discreet in a school setting.

"While the grant is helpful it is not quite so easy for some in a school setting."

She thinks parents are "aware" and would often choose to go without then let their child not have the products they need.

Dave Lee-Allan, headteacher of Stowmarket High School and chairman of Suffolk Association of Seconda

Dave Lee-Allan, headteacher at Stowmarket High School - Credit: Gregg Brown

Stowmarket High head Dave Lee-Allan and chairman of Suffolk Association of Secondary Heads said he knows that his school is well stocked if anyone needs period products as there is always an abundance.  

Mr Lee-Allan added: "It's difficult for young people to ask for it."

But Maria Igwebuike, who created the Trinity Project to raise awareness of period poverty in other countries and Ipswich food bank FIND founder Maureen Reynel both think period poverty does not exist to the same extent in Ipswich. 

Maria Igwebuike, owner of Maria Callisto in her home studio.

Maria Igwebuike - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

Ms Igwebuike, who ran a workshop with refugees in Ipswich on women's health, said the women became more "comfortable" after the talks to ask questions about period pain. 

She hopes to run another workshop soon. 

FIND founder Ms Reynel said they have lots of stock available and if anyone needs period products to get in touch with the service. 

"Since I started a food bank more than 30 years ago It does not seem to have been a problem in Ipswich and we will always provide them," she said. 

Chloe-Louise Lowe, 16, donating items to Maureen Reynel at FIND

Chloe-Louise Lowe, 16, donating items to Maureen Reynel at FIND - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown/Archant