POLITICS
20/11/2017 18:39 GMT | Updated 20/11/2017 18:43 GMT

Period Poverty: Chancellor Faces Cross-Party Revolt If Budget Fails To Help Girls

Opposition MP also calls on Equalities Minister Justine Greening to meet girls affected.

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Chancellor Philip Hammond faces a cross-party revolt if his Budget fails to end period poverty.

If Hammond does not offer fresh cash for free sanitary products in his Budget on Wednesday, MPs are preparing to throw their weight behind an amendment by Lib Dem Layla Moran that will force the Government “to do the right thing” and allocate £10m-a-year. 

It comes after it emerged one in ten girls is skipping school and some were even using socks as makeshift pads. 

Moran said: “In some schools, teachers are having to buy supplies out of their own pockets while food banks are increasingly being asked for sanitary products.

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Chancellor Philip Hammond faces a lot of demands for cash at his budget this week

“In a country as prosperous as Britain it is an outrage that we can’t afford an absolute maximum of £10m-a-year for this. A growing number of MPs across the House have said they agree with me and we intend to force the government to do the right thing.”

Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities Paula Sherriff, meanwhile, is calling on Justine Greening, Education Secretary and Equalities Minister, to meet schoolgirls directly affected by period poverty. 

Sheriff has also voiced concerns that £250,000 of the money raised from the so-called tampon tax will go to the anti-abortion charity Life. 

Paula Sheriffs letter to Education Secretary Justine Greening
Paula Sherriff's letter to Education Secretary Justine Greening
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Equalities Minister Justine Greening

Greening had previously said during Education Questions in the Commons that schools and parents should take responsibility for paying for basic hygiene products. 

Sherriff wrote: “At our recent Women and Equalities Questions, I raised the impact of period poverty on girls’ education. I was extremely disappointed by your reply, in which you appeared to blame parents in deprived households for any potential impact on schooling when girls first experience periods.

“I would like to invite you to meet with affected individuals and groups campaigning on their behalf, so you can hear the humiliation and indignity that period poverty causes, and how it affects girls at school.

Sheriff added that the issue is affecting women and girls at education establishments “specifically”, and said: “I do not therefore believe that this is an issue for which you can simply deny responsibility.” 

Paula Sheriffs letter to Education Secretary Justine Greening
Paula Sherriff's letter to Education Secretary Justine Greening

Sherriff added that Life would withdraw support if a woman had chosen to have an abortion. 

She said: “This is a completely inappropriate use of the tampon tax fund, and even at this late stage I would urge you as the Minister for Women and Equalities to intervene with your colleagues.

“Surely, this funding could have been spent piloting schemes to tackle period poverty. Your own Department would have been perfectly placed to organise an initiative focused on schools, for example.” 

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Labour MP Paula Sherriff 

A Government spokesperson said: “We’re helping millions of families meet the everyday costs of living and keep more of what they earn. Since 2015 this government has cut income tax for over 30 million people and taken 1.3 million people out of income tax altogether.

“We have also invested over £11bn since 2011 - almost £2.5bn this year alone - through the pupil premium to tackle the impact of economic disadvantage on education and help schools support their most disadvantaged pupils. Schools have discretion over how they use their funding and can make sanitary products available to pupils if they identify this as a particular issue.

“No girl should be held back from reaching her potential because of her gender. Current guidance to schools on Relationship and Sex Education encourages schools to make adequate and sensitive arrangements to help girls cope with menstruation and with requests for sanitary protection.”

Responding to the claims about Life a spokesman for the charity said: “Should a pregnant woman who has accessed our housing service decide to terminate her pregnancy, or indeed suffer a miscarriage, then the ‘established need’ that we are offering to assist with as a charity would no longer exist as the client would no longer be pregnant.”