Chancellor announces tampon tax scrapped

10th March 2020

The Chancellor has today announced in the first Budget of 2020, among other measures, that the tampon tax has been scrapped.

This is overdue, and we would like for institutions to take this opportunity to renew efforts in the fight against Period Poverty and ensure they are providing free sanitary products to students.

The 5% tax on sanitary products has long been controversial as it feeds into the idea that sanitary products are a luxury item rather than an essential item.

The removal of the tax times well with the launch of the period product scheme for schools and colleges in England on 20th January 2020. England has been behind the curve for the last two years, as Scotland and Wales have been providing free sanitary products to schools and colleges since 2018, with Scotland going one step further and providing them in universities, leisure centres and libraries as well.

There is still a way to go though.

Why is it important that all students have access to free sanitary products?

Increasing access to period products is really important in education institutions. In 2018, Plan International UK research found that period poverty affects 1 in 10 schoolgirls across the UK. Over 137,700 children in the UK have missed school because of period poverty and 68% said they felt less able to pay attention in class at school or college while menstruating. 40% of girls in the UK have used toilet roll because they couldn’t afford menstrual products. Women and girls living in poverty are forced to make dehumanising choices every day when they are on their menstrual cycle: wear a low quality or insufficient sanitary product or wear a higher quality product for longer than is hygienic or safe.

Nobody should have to make choices like this with regard their health and their education.

Over the previous academic year (August 2018 – June 2019), the Scottish Government has been providing free sanitary products to students in Scotland. They asked Young Scot to do some research on the impact of the free products. You can find the full results here.

Key findings included:
  • The majority of respondents (87.0%) stated that they had used or needed to use a period product in the past academic year.
  • Of those respondents who had used or needed to use a period product in the past academic year - Almost two-thirds (64.7%) stated that they had received free period products from their school, college or university in the past academic year.
  • When asked if they felt that the availability of free period products had an impact on them, most respondents (83.9%) selected Yes – Positive impact. Of these respondents, most stated that they were Less worried about having [their] period (88.7%) and that they were More able to continue with day to day activities during [their] period (64.1%). A quarter stated that the availability of products Improved [their] mental health and wellbeing (24.7%).
 Sanitary scheme case studies in universities and colleges

In addition to the supply of sanitary products, institutions have organised campaigns to destigmatise periods and raise awareness of some of the health and environmental implications of sanitary products that most people are unaware of. (Did you know, tampons are not required to be sterile and most are not, and that every year tampons, pads and panty liners along with their packaging generate more than 200,000 tonnes of waste).
  • Queen Margaret University’s Students’ Union ran an event called ‘Pads and Pints’ during Environmenstrual Week last year. They encouraged students to come and talk about menstruation over a pint and gave out free reusable and sustainable menstrual products and provided materials for people to make their own reusable pads.
  • University of Brighton’s Students’ Union hosts wellbeing cupboards stocked with free sanitary supplies, a range of contraceptives, drink spikeys, wellbeing kits, panic alarms, budget cookbooks and housing advice.
  • University of Dundee brought in the sanitary support scheme funded by the Scottish Government and went one step further. They decided to extend this offer to their online learners as well – by post!
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