Submitted by: Lambeth and Young Liberals.
Mover: Rebecca Jones.
Summation: Cllr Donna Harris.
Conference notes that:
- The average spend on sanitary products is £120 a year, according to the charity Bloody Good Period.
- A poll from Plan International reveals that over a quarter (28%) of girls aged 14-21 in the UK are struggling to afford period products, and nearly 1-in-5 (19%) report being unable to afford period products at all since the start of 2022.
- An ActionAid 2022 survey showed that of those who have struggled to afford menstrual products in the last six months, 75% said they had prioritised spending money on food, 49% had prioritised gas/electric, and 31% prioritised fuel.
- Nearly half (46%) of those who struggled to afford sanitary products in the last six months kept sanitary pads or tampons in for longer than recommended or used toilet paper, and 10% doubled up their underwear; and women, girls and others who menstruate are at risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome (TSS) if they do not have access to clean period products.
- There is significant evidence of the widespread adverse impact of periods on attendance in education and at work.
- Menstruation is not just a women's issue, and also affects some trans and non-binary people.
- Vulnerable people, such as asylum seekers, have particular difficulty in accessing sanitary products. Three quarters of such women interviewed by Women for Refugee Women struggled to obtain period pads or tampons while destitute.
- The Scottish Parliament has enacted legal requirements in the Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Act 2021 to allow anyone who needs period products to receive them free of charge; to have the power to make other public bodies provide free period products; and for local councils and education providers to make period products freely available within their buildings.
- The Period Products Scheme for schools and colleges in England has provided free period products to all state-maintained schools and 16-19 education organisations in England since 2020.
- Many local authorities, including Liberal Democrat-controlled Sutton Council, have committed to providing sanitary products in council buildings but need long-term funding from the UK Government to continue this support.
- The public health grant is used to provide vital services that support health and it has been cut by 26% in real terms per capita since 2015/16 (equivalent to a reduction of £1bn).
- More than a quarter of women (26%) have experienced negative comments about their periods.
- Half (48%) of women and girls aged between 14 and 21 are embarrassed by their periods, and 22% do not feel comfortable discussing periods with their teachers.
Conference believes that:
- Period products are a human right, not a luxury.
- Nobody should experience period poverty.
- England's current free period product provision is not fit for purpose.
- It is in everyone's interests for stigma around periods to be addressed.
- The Liberal Democrat commitment to expand the rollout of free menstrual products to homeless shelters, women's refuges, foodbanks, NHS GP surgeries, and universities in England.
- The principle of equality of opportunity in which everyone should expect a fair start in life and equal opportunities throughout life.
Conference calls on the UK Government to:
- Introduce a right for people in England to access a choice of free period products.
- Place a duty on local authorities and education providers to make period products freely available in their buildings, providing guidance and additional funding to support them in doing so.
- Give consideration as to how free period products can be made available to groups who might face barriers to accessing them, including people with disability, gypsy/ travellers, victims of domestic abuse, carers, asylum seekers, refugees, homeless people, and people living in remote locations.
- Improve comprehensive education on periods for both educators and young people, to ensure an appreciation for the lived experience of menstruation, and a widespread understanding of period products.
- Reinstate the public health grant to a minimum real-terms per capita equivalent of 2015 - the grant from which these activities will be funded.
Conference further calls for:
- Universities to develop action plans to tackle period poverty and its stigma on campus.
- Employers to voluntarily provide free period products in the workplace.
Applicability: England only.