Suffolk County Council launches county-wide review of services tackling period poverty

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Suffolk County Council announced on 22 November 2018 that it is running a full audit of services, across the county, which are aimed at tackling Period Poverty.

Pride and Periods launch at Suffolk LibrariesThe audit, requested by Councillor James Reeder, Cabinet Member for Health, aims to get a full picture of the wide range of existing charitable and voluntary schemes operating in Suffolk to help women and girls who struggle to afford sanitary items. The aim is to find out where there are gaps and assess how provision can be improved.

Work has already begun on scoping current provision across the county and a report will be published in the New Year, making recommendations to meet the identified need, based on the findings.

The audit will draw together details of the existing initiatives such as the scheme operated by Lowestoft Rising.

Lowestoft Rising, a public sector partnership, comprising Suffolk County Council, Suffolk Police, Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner’s office, Waveney District Council and NHS Great Yarmouth and Waveney Clinical Commissioning Group has developed a pilot scheme to offer help to girls and women in, or at risk of, period poverty.

The #FreePeriod scheme was launched in summer 2018 in some High Schools in Lowestoft. Lowestoft Rising, Access Community Trust and Lowestoft Food bank, led by the Lowestoft Community Church, have since offered all High Schools in Waveney the opportunity to be part of the scheme. Download and read information about the #FreePeriod scheme (PDF, 493KB).

In addition, colleges, libraries and local community groups in Waveney have asked to join the scheme and discussions are ongoing with other local groups, including church groups, girl guides and a number of primary schools, to adopt the scheme. Lowestoft Rising has already issued 20 locations with boxes of stock, with more requests being received.

Phil Aves, Change Manager at Lowestoft Rising, said:

“This is a hugely important issue and the Lowestoft Rising partnership are supporting this because the levels of poverty and deprivation in our area make this a real everyday issue. Nationally, 1 in 10 young girls can’t afford these products and here in Lowestoft it is likely to be even higher. The public have been great at donating to the Food Bank here on the East Coast and we are able to supply these vital items to those groups who need them to help young girls access them for free. It’s a great simple scheme that can make such a difference”

Suffolk Libraries has recently launched the ‘Pride and Periods’ service which offers tampons and pads on a no questions asked basis.

A range of sanitary items is available from ten libraries in the county, and there are plans to offer the service in more libraries soon. Items that have been donated by a number of supporting organisations can be requested by filling in a simple and discreet form in the library. The service has been very well received so far and has been very popular.

Bruce Leeke, Chief Executive of Suffolk Libraries, said:

“We’ve had a great deal of interest in the Pride and Periods service so far and a lot of support for the idea. It shows there is a need to tackle the issue of Period Poverty and the important role that libraries can play in offering welcoming and safe places that can help with the important issues that many people face every day.”

1 in 7 girls struggle to afford sanitary items or have had to borrow from friends, more than 1 in 10 have had to improvise sanitary protection. A recent poll by Always has shown that girls and women experiencing period poverty miss school days, struggle to find employment and are more likely to suffer with anxiety and depression.

Councillor James Reeder, Cabinet Member for Health, said:

“Suffolk County Council’s Cabinet fully acknowledges the need to respond to the challenge of period poverty, which is closely linked to mental health and wellbeing. The council commissions Suffolk Libraries as wellbeing hubs, to support the community in many ways, including the ‘Pride and Periods’ service. The library provides a safe and neutral space, accessible to women and girls of all backgrounds.

“There are many schemes in Suffolk which support women and girls to access free sanitary products: all food banks offer them on request, most secondary schools have products available for girls on an ad-hoc basis and some primary schools also provide some items. All of these have been set up independently over time and each locality has its own arrangements.

“A recent overview of the current picture in Suffolk has shown that homeless women are particularly at risk of period poverty as they are unlikely to access community schemes running in Suffolk. Another vulnerable group are girls not in schools.

“This is why, to get a full understanding of ‘Period Poverty’ throughout Suffolk, the council is carrying out an audit on provision available in the county with the aim of understanding and identifying where there are gaps in supply and how distribution can be improved.”

At up to £13 on average a month, many women cannot afford sanitary products, let alone items to help make their monthly experience more comfortable.

The county council encourages members of the public who wish to help girls and women who are in need by donating sanitary items at food bank donation points like those offered at East of England Co-op stores.