Young women are being forced to use socks, tissues and even skip school during their period because they cannot afford sanitary products, according to a Lib Dem peer.
Baroness Lorely Burt, the party’s equalities spokesperson, has written to the government to demand urgent action on “period poverty”, which she claims is a hidden problem blighting the lives of thousands of girls across the country.
In a letter to education secretary Justine Greening, the former Solihull MP said: “You’ll have no doubt heard heart-breaking stories of young women being forced to use socks, tissues and other rudimentary and inappropriate materials in the place of sanitary products due to the poverty they are living in.
“This cannot be acceptable in a society as developed and prosperous as Britain.”
She said charities including In Kind Direct and Freedom4Girls, which operates in disadvantaged communities globally,and companies such as Bodyform and Boots were doing “amazing work” to get sanitary products to young women in need.
“However, the government cannot just ignore this crisis and leave it to business and charities to act,” she added.
“Provision must be made to ensure that all young women, regardless of their situation, have access to these vital hygiene products.
Former Leeds North West MP Greg Mulholland, who lost his seat to Labour in June, raised the issue with Greening in Parliament in March, when she pledged to “consider carefully” the prospect of offering free sanitary products in schools.
Baroness Burt’s letter goes on: “I appreciate that the general election would have interrupted your work on this. However, it remains an important issue that needs urgent government attention.
“In your role I am sure I don’t need to stress the knock-on impact not having access to hygiene products can have on girls.
“Anecdotal evidence shows that girls are missing school on a monthly basis because of this, not to mention the worrying impact this is likely to have on their confidence and self-esteem.”
She said she would arrange a meeting for the education secretary with the relevant charities, who have already warned of the devastating impact hygiene poverty can have on people’s lives.
The Department for Education said the secretary of state remained committed to looking into the issue.