Period poverty - ‘Better late than never’ claim over free sanitary products for schools
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A row has broken out over a new scheme to beat period poverty, by providing students with free menstrual products.
The Government has announced products will be made freely available to students in primary and secondary schools and colleges under an "opt in" arrangement.
Schools taking part can order sanitary pads, tampons and menstrual cups for their students.
Suffolk Labour councillors have welcomed the move - but claim Suffolk pupils could have benefited earlier, when they called for a similar policy for the county's schools in October 2018.
However, Conservatives say the previous idea, which they rejected, was a "muddled motion" which would have excluded most girls in the area.
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Kim Clements, opposition spokesperson for women and equalities, said "We welcome this as a step towards genuine equality, with young women now able to focus on their education and enjoy school. rather than worrying about whether or not they can afford period products.
"However, it amazes me that it has taken until 2020 to introduce a policy that allows young women to go about their daily lives without the worry of period poverty.
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"Although better late than never, my frustration is that we could have had a similar policy in Suffolk years ago if the Conservatives had backed our proposals."
She added she would now urge all schools to opt into the scheme.
Mary Evans, cabinet member for children's services, education and skills, said: "I'm very pleased that Suffolk's girls and young women will benefit from the government's decision and will have access to free sanitary products in schools and colleges.
"I hope it will also trigger conversations around period poverty and enable us all to talk about the subject without feeling embarrassed.
"Suffolk County Council did indeed reject the Labour Group's proposal in 2018, because it would have excluded the majority of girls in Suffolk's schools.
"It was frankly a muddled motion, proposing to fund free sanitary products only in local authority schools, when 70% of our young people are attending academy schools."
Mrs Evans said the council's public health team had been co-ordinating and promoting "excellent schemes" across the county, to provide free access to sanitary products in places such as libraries.