The government will provide free sanitary products in secondary schools and colleges in England from the next school year.
The chancellor made the announcement in the spring statement, where the Office for Budget Responsibility forecast growth of 1.2% this year – a downgrade from the 1.6% forecast at the budget in 2018.
Delivering his spring statement after MPs rejected Theresa May’s Brexit dealfor a second time on Tuesday night, Philip Hammond made the announcement about sanitary products.
The move comes after campaigners called for action from the government, amid claims that girls from low-income families can end up missing school during their periods because they are unable to afford sanitary protection.
A poll of 1,000 girls and women aged 14 to 21 carried out for the charity Plan International in 2017 found that one in 10 had been unable to afford sanitary wear. A further 12% were forced to improvise protection because of the expense of products.
The announcement is part of a cross-government push on eliminating period poverty. It comes after the NHS pledge to make tampons and sanitary towels available to patients. In August 2018, the Scottish government became the first in the world to make sanitary products available free to all pupils and students at schools, colleges and universities.
Dawn Butler, the shadow minister for women and equalities, said of Hammond’s announcement: “This is 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 Labour conference in 2017, so we’re pleased that the government has adopted yet another Labour policy.”
Other announcements during the spring statement include £100m this year for police forces in England to pay for overtime aimed at addressing the “epidemic” of knife crime. The government also announced a £3bn affordable homes guarantee scheme, to support the delivery of about 30,000 homes.
Hammond warned that economic progress would be put at risk unless MPs took the threat of an imminent no-deal Brexit off the table in the vote on Wednesday evening.
In an impassioned statement, he said: “Last night’s events mean we are not where I hoped we would be today. Our economy is fundamentally robust. But the uncertainty that I hoped we would lift last night, still hangs over us.
“We cannot allow that to continue. It is damaging our economy and it is damaging our standing and reputation in the world.
“Tonight, we have a choice. We can remove the threat of an imminent no-deal exit hanging over our economy. Tomorrow, we will have the opportunity to start to map out a way forward towards building a consensus across this house for a deal we can, collectively support, to exit the EU in an orderly way to a future relationship that will allow Britain to flourish, protecting jobs and businesses.”
Source: The Guardian