The Scottish Government, to its credit, asked CFINE to operate and coordinate a pilot scheme through which sanitary products were made available free to all those on low incomes who need them. The pilot operated in Aberdeen’s regeneration areas and through partner organisations which support individuals on low incomes. It ran from September 2017 to March 2018.
The pilot distributed sanitary products to those in need via local food banks, community centres, family centres and more. A wide range of community and voluntary organisations supported the pilot, along with the local authority and selected educational institutions including; schools, the FE college and Robert Gordon University.
The pilot aimed to explore options for providing access to free sanitary products in ways that provide choice and respect dignity, and to better understand the circumstances people are in that mean they cannot access sanitary products. The pilot explored both targeted provision for those in low income households and provision open to all in educational settings. It also considered providing products directly and providing the means for participants to buy products themselves.
The purpose of the pilot was also to assess the level of demand for and likely uptake of the service and crucially to understand what a dignified response for the people affected might look like.
Finally, the pilot promoted and sought responses to reusable sanitary products, both cups and towels, which bring economic and environmental, as well as possibly health, benefits.
The pilot ended in March 2018 and was successful both in indicating there is a high level of demand for sanitary products in Aberdeen, and in testing a variety of delivery methods for distributing these. It exceeded the target of distributing free sanitary products to 1,000 participants with the option of receiving the product directly, or receiving a pre-paid card or cash option. The most popular option was the product. The pilot also highlighted real barriers to participation – including the stigma of ‘period poverty’ and embarrassment around the topic of menstruation more widely.
Following the successful pilot, the Scottish Government have announced the rollout of free Access to Sanitary Products to all school, college and university students from August 2018 as well as more widely across Scotland. They will provide the FareShare network with over £500,000 to distribute sanitary products with the aim of reaching an estimated 18,800 more people in Scotland. People from low income households across Scotland will be able to receive free sanitary products from FareShare through this scheme. It is expected that wider access will go some way to reducing the anxiety experienced by those who struggle to find the money to buy these essential items.
The rollout of this scheme in Aberdeen will be available to all partners involved in the ASP pilot, as well as FareShare’s ‘Community Food Members’. As signed up to the FareShare programme, and any other organisation interested in receiving stock of sanitary items to support the community going forward.
We are always happy to accept donations of sanitary products and tinned goods to help support the most vulnerable in our city. Members of the public regularly organise food and/ or sanitary product drives in their communities/work places to help support this.