• Families on low incomes shouldn't have to struggle to afford basic items like sanitary pads. (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
The Scottish government has greenlighted a pilot project that will provide free sanitary items to those that are struggling to afford them.
Chloe Sargeant

12 Jul 2017 - 2:26 PM  UPDATED 12 Jul 2017 - 2:32 PM

The Scottish government is going ahead with a new pilot project, which will see people from low-income households offered free sanitary products in a measure to tackle 'period poverty'.

Launched by Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities Angela Constance, the pilot scheme will make tampons and other sanitary items easily accessible to those who need them, but cannot afford them. 

It will see sanitary pads and tampons made available at selected locations, such as secondary schools, shelters and food banks, by Aberdeen social enterprise Community Food Initiatives North East (CFINE).

The government project, which is the first of its kind in the United Kingdom, will last for 6 months. The results of the half-year project will be used to inform future policy on the issue.

"Women... supplement [menstruation] by the use of socks, they would use toilet paper and in some of the worst circumstances, I've come into contact with women who supplemented that by the use of newspaper. It's literally as grave as that."

The project has rolled out following a growing campaign across the UK that demands dignified options for menstruating people whose budgets do not extend to sanitary items.

Anti-poverty campaigner Edward Gunn from food bank network The Trussell Trust appeared on Good Morning Scotland, explaining that period poverty was a "very real, very pertinent issue" in Scotland: 

"We've taken evidence across the country of women who supplement that by the use of socks, they would use toilet paper and in some of the worst circumstances, I've come into contact with women who supplemented that by the use of newspaper. It's literally as grave as that."

Chief executive of CFINE, Dave Simmers, told The Scotsman that welfare reform had adversely affected people from low-income backgrounds, and many could not longer spare the money for expensive sanitary items.

“We’ve been aware of this problem for many years after hearing about difficulties from women at our food banks. It’s been quite clear the cost of sanitary products are pricey at the best of times and can be exorbitant for many women who don’t have cash to spare. The overwhelming reason for women and people in general suffering poverty is the implementation of welfare reform."

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Constance told the BBC that this project is simply the first step:

"It is unacceptable that any woman or girl in Scotland should be unable to access sanitary products. That is why, as part of our wider aims to eradicate poverty from our country, we are exploring how to make products freely available to low-income groups.

"The pilot in Aberdeen is a first step to help us understand the barriers women and girls face - and to help us develop a sensitive and dignified solution to making these products easily accessible to those who need them."

"A pilot scheme is a welcome step in the right direction," said Labour MSP Monica Lennon, who worked heavily on the campaign for the project. "But we must go much further to help women and girls across the country who are facing a monthly struggle to access the products they need."

Lennon said that she would soon be launching a proposal to extend this scheme to include people from all income brackets - which would make essential sanitary items completely free in Scotland. "We need to end period poverty and improve access to sanitary products right across Scotland and that's why I will soon be launching a consultation on a Member's Bill proposal which will give all women in Scotland the right to access these products for free, regardless of their income."

SBS have reached out to Equalities Secretary Angela Constance for comment on the new project, but did not receive a response by time of publishing. 

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