England will provide free sanitary products to high school students, Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond said Wednesday in his spring statement, in a fully funded government program aimed at tackling period poverty.
Sanitary products will be available to secondary school and college students, who are typically between the ages of 11 and 18.
The program, which will be developed by the Department for Education, will be implemented in the next school year, Hammond said.
In December 2017, a survey of 1,000 women and girls in the UK, carried out by charity Plan International UK, revealed that 10% had been unable to afford sanitary products, while 15% had “struggled” to afford them and 12% had used makeshift sanitary protection.
The same month, more than 2,000 people protested outside Downing Street as part of the #FreePeriods campaign, started by teenage activist Amika George in order to secure free sanitary products for school students.
Dawn Butler, the shadow minister for women and equalities, said in a statement that the government’s announcement was “a victory for all those who have campaigned for an end to period poverty.”
“I set out Labour’s support for free sanitary products in secondary schools at the Labour Conference in 2017 so we’re pleased that the Government has adopted yet another Labour policy,” Butler said. “It’s a disgrace that period poverty exists in the sixth richest country in the world.”
The Scottish government launched a similar program in August 2018, announcing a £5.2 million ($6.8 million) fund to give students at schools, colleges and universities access to free sanitary products. According to a government release, Scotland was the first country in the world to offer free products to all students.
Earlier this month, NHS England said it would provide free sanitary products to hospital patients who needed them, after a report by the British Medical Association found that 42% of hospital trusts and health boards in the UK did not offer free sanitary products or provided only a limited amount.
In a further 14% of trusts and health boards, patients could not buy sanitary products anywhere on site.