Schools and colleges are being encouraged to keep providing free period products to students to help tackle period inequality.
From January, a new portal was launched by period product supplier phs Direct allowing every school and college in England to order free products for students, funded by the Department for Education. The initiative was launched to create period equality for all – ensuring no young person misses out because of a lack of access to such a basic necessity as period products.
However, campaigners are raising concerns that mass closures of schools and colleges will mean more young people will face period inequality whether caused by lack of affordability or access issues.
In response, phs Direct is keeping the order portal open for schools and colleges to stock up in order to keep providing access to those most in need. Educational organisations can also divert orders to neighbouring schools or colleges. phs Direct and their delivery partners are, of course, following Government guidelines when delivering these important products.
Warren Edmondson, managing director of phs Direct which is part of washroom and services provider phs Group, said: “Offering free period products at school and college to young people is a fantastic initiative in the drive to create period equality. However, mass closures risk the scheme losing momentum and interrupting free access to products for those who need them. We are reaching out to schools and colleges to tell them that we remain open for business and to encourage them to continue placing orders to endeavour to help those who need it most whether it’s the children of key workers, students on free school meals or those with other access issues, finding non-contact methods of distribution.”
City Academy Bristol has already made provisions to support students including deploying extra pads to students ahead of closures and now providing period products in deliveries for those in need.
Aisha Thomas, assistant principal at City Academy Bristol, said: “We have started deliveries of food and we have been adding supplies to the boxes. Most find it embarrassing and would never ask. We have had thank you texts and messages from students and parents who were grateful, as they can’t get out.
“As we enter into unprecedented times and a new normal that none of us expected, there are some things that will remain the same. One of those things is our menstrual cycles and as a result, students and their parents and carers will still need supplies. In these tough times we all need to do our bit. The world changed, we need to adjust, yet the need for supplies is greater than before. Disadvantaged communities have to choose what they can buy but the ability to feel safe and clean should never be a choice to make.”
Supporting the period product campaign, Girlguiding Advocate Emily, aged 17, said: “The future is uncertain for everyone but, for many, school provided stability and support. The new free period product scheme for schools was a way to tackle the period stigma all young women like me face and to allow girls to access products they may not otherwise have had. By allowing pupils to still access these items through non-contact delivery and school orders, phs is allowing people who were trapped by financial or pandemic restrictions to have one less thing to worry about – and I am so glad to see this urgent action being taken.”
To access their free products, schools and colleges have had an activation email from phs which includes information on how to log on to the portal and order. For support, schools and colleges can get in touch with phs Direct by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling the helpline on 01827 255500.