Hygiene services provider, phs Group, has announced plans to offer its new coin-free vending machines to schools for free as part of a new initiative to combat period poverty.
Developed in collaboration with FM providers and schools, the vending machines provide access to free sanitary products without the use of a coin. Users can simply open the drawer of the vending machine and take their choice of product whenever needed. As part of phs Period Poverty, a drive which aims to support the elimination of period poverty in the UK, phs is leading the industry by offering this free-vending machine to schools free of charge.
Chris Brown, head of public sector at phs, said: “phs has worked closely with FM providers, local authorities, schools and government to create a practical and affordable solution to period poverty. After being extensively trialled within schools, we’re confident coin-free vend machines placed within the washroom are the more accessible way of providing girls with access to free sanitary products. On our part, we pledge to provide these machines free of charge to schools as we honour our commitment to do the right thing when it comes to period poverty. It is fantastic that governments have pledged to provide free sanitary products to schools but we need to ensure that this is implemented quickly in order to reach the front line and really make a difference.”
Backed by campaigners, phs Period Poverty was launched with pioneering new research into the experiences and opinions of teenage girls, designed to raise awareness of the scale of the issue in the UK. The research report, available for free download on the phs Period Poverty website, reveals that nearly half of teenage girls believe period poverty prevents girls from doing well at school and a third believe it holds them back from achieving their aspirations.
The UK Government and Welsh Government have vowed to tackle period poverty by offering access to free menstrual products in all schools with a similar directive already in place in Scotland. However, the research highlights the need for swift implementation. Nine out of 10 girls feel period poverty is a real issue but more than half (52%) feel it isn’t taken seriously enough. Half (48%) also say they feel let down that not enough has been done to prevent period poverty.
While this new pledge is a huge step forward, it will depend highly on how accessible these products are made in schools. A fifth (21%) of girls say they have no access to free sanitary products at home or elsewhere and, although 6% say they understand there is access to free products at their school, they do not know where these can be accessed from. Over three quarters (76%) of girls say they feel there should be free access to products in schools with 52% saying this should be in the form of free vending machines in the school toilets.
Clare Noble, head of healthcare at phs, said: “There is still a stigma attached to talking about periods and period poverty – and this is wrong. There should be no barriers to tackling period poverty and only by lifting the lid and recognising the scale of the problem can we ensure that it is effectively addressed. What’s significant about this research is that it focuses on the experiences and opinions of girls about period poverty over the last 12 months, demonstrating that it is a very current problem in today’s society. If nine out of 10 girls are telling us that period poverty is a real issue, we should all be listening and compelled to take action.”
In support of the campaign, campaigner and founder of #FreePeriods Amika George said: “I think this research is absolutely vital in helping us to understand just how prolific and damaging period poverty in the UK. The Government’s recent pledge to provide funding for free period products in all schools will make a real difference for those children who’ve been struggling to afford to manage their period, and I really look forward to seeing the positive impact of that from early next year. Yet, it’s clear from this research that much more needs to be done in terms of education, and helping children to feel that their periods don’t need to hold them back. We need to open up the conversation around menstruation because it’s clear that stigma is still a huge issue and we have to find new and creative ways to tackle that.”