This Is Why MPs Are Writing An Open Letter To The Government To End Period Poverty

"There’s clearly a need for universal, free period products across the UK.”
Irina Marwan via Getty Images

Period poverty is a serious issue in the UK and being unable to afford menstrual product has a serious knock-on effect, impacting people’s education and livelihoods. As many as 137,700 UK school children miss school annually due to a lack of access to period products, according to The Royal College of Nursing.

The average person who gets their period for 40 years will spend around £2,000 on tampons – money that could be spent on feeding or clothing themselves or their families.

The cost of living crisis is making it harder for women and girls to buy period products. A poll of 1,000 girls aged 14-21 reveals that more than one in four (28%) are struggling to afford period products, and nearly one in five (19%) report have been unable to afford period products at all since the start of 2022.

One in 10 of the young women who took part in the survey had to go to a food bank to obtain free period products. And half of the girls who struggled to afford period products since the start of 2022 had to cut back on food and groceries to be able to buy them. This number dramatically increased by almost double compared to last year.

Shockingly, the vast majority (80%) of girls who struggled or were unable to afford period products have used toilet paper as a substitute for period products, up an eighth on last year. Around 12% have used socks, 10% have used newspaper/paper and 7% have used other fabric.

Rachel Grocott, the CEO of Bloody Good Period, tells HuffPost UK that period poverty in the UK is becoming an increasingly bigger issue, year on year. “Right now, household budgets are under pressure in all directions. 40% of those on Universal Credit are in work. Food bank referrals are up. People have to make choices between life’s essentials,” she says.

And, if you have a period and/or dependents who do, that includes period products.

“We provided 87% more period products in 2022 than in 2021 (when the need had already increased due to the pandemic),” Grocott says.

The demand and need for their services have grown hugely since the charity was originally founded by Gabby Jahanshahi-Edlin in 2016. “We often hear stories of people using old socks, nappies, or toilet paper as makeshift period products, simply because they cannot afford or access to safe, reliable products,” she says.

Consequently, this will affect people’s physical and mental health, and for their participation in education, work, and society.

However, Scotland has shown us how easy it can be to stop period poverty. They become the first country in the world to make period products free to access for all.

The Period Products (Free Provision) Act 2021 (the ‘Act’) as passed in late 2020 but came into effect in August following a three-year campaign led by Monica Lennon, a member of the Scottish Parliament who also serves as the Scottish Labour Party’s health care spokeswoman.

Under the law, the Scottish Government is charged with setting up a nationwide program to distribute pads and tampons to anyone who needs them. Public buildings, including schools and universities, will also be required to provide the products in bathrooms, just like toilet paper.

Whilst in England, 32% of girls say free period products are not even available at school.

This is why MPs, charities, councillors, and academics have all come together to call on the UK Government to end period poverty in England. MPs such as Monica Lennon, Daisy Cooper, and Kirsten Oswald, have all signed this open letter, supported by EMPOWER, a UK-based non-profit organisation that aims to accelerate female and minority empowerment to get the government to remedy these obvious and unacceptable inequalities.

The open letter reads as follows:

Dear Rt Hon Kemi Badenoch MP, Minister for Women and Equalities,

Girls around the United Kingdom lose thousands of school days each year through period poverty.

Unnecessary absence causes educational inequalities and poorer outcomes for those students. Even in the workplace, a lack of access to safe period products hampers our national productivity, causing increased absence.

Last year, Bloody Good Period met a level of demand for free period products 87% higher than the previous year, while the Trussell Trust recorded vastly increased demand for them in foodbanks.

It is those on the lowest incomes – and indeed those with no income at all – who are the most vulnerable. With hundreds of thousands of women and people who menstruate choosing between buying period products and buying food, ministers risk denying millions basic access to healthcare products.

In November 2020, the Scottish Parliament unanimously agreed to provide free period products to all. Yet in England, 32% of girls say free period products are not even available at school.

It should now become a key plank of the government’s Levelling Up agenda to remedy these obvious and unacceptable inequalities. Our aim should be a society in which free period products are as common a sight in public buildings as toilet rolls are today.

This is the full list of people who have signed the letter:

MPs / MSPs:

  • Monica Lennon MSP, Labour, introduced the Free Period Products Bill (Scotland)
  • Daisy Cooper MP, Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats and Spokesperson for Health and Social Care
  • Kirsten Oswald MP, Shadow SNP Spokesperson for Women and Equalities
  • Dr Philippa Whitford MP, Shadow SNP Spokesperson for Scotland
  • Christine Jardine MP, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Women and Equalities
  • Sharon Hodgson MP, Labour, Chair of Commons Finance Committee
  • Kim Johnson MP, Labour, Women & Equalities Select Committee
  • John McDonnell MP, Labour, former Shadow Chancellor
  • Sir George Howarth MP, Labour
  • Aspana Begum MP, Labour
  • Mohammed Yasin MP, Labour
  • Stewart Hosie MP, Shadow SNP Spokesperson for Economy

  • Kirsty Blackman MP, Shadow SNP Spokesperson for the Cabinet Office

  • Marsha de Cordova MP, Labour

  • Dave Doogan MP, SNP Spokesperson for Defence

  • Sarah Green MP, Liberal Democrat

  • Tommy Sheppard MP, SNP

  • Richard Burgon MP, Labour

  • Rachael Maskell MP, Labour


  • Lord McNicol of West Kilbride, Labour
  • Lord Randall of Uxbridge, Conservative
  • The Baroness Lister of Burtersett, Labour
  • The Lord Rennard, Liberal Democrat
  • The Lord Campbell-Savours, Labour
  • The Baroness Burt of Solihull, Liberal Democrat


  • Cllr Janette Williamson, Labour, Leader, Wirral Council
  • Cllr Asher Craig, Labour, Deputy Mayor for Children, Education and Equalities, Bristol City Council
  • Cllr Lorna Fielker, Labour, Cabinet Member for Health, Southampton City Council
  • Cllr Karen Clark, Labour, Cabinet Member for Public Health, North Tyneside Council
  • Cllr Sarah Kerr, Liberal Democrat, Executive Member for Climate Emergency and Resident Services, Wokingham Council
  • Cllr Mark Nuti, Conservative, Cabinet Member for Adults and Health, Surrey County Council


  • Omoye Mary Akhagba, PhD, Institute of Philosophy and Sociology of the Polish Academy of Sciences
  • Dr Annalise Weckesser, Reader in Medical Anthropology at Birmingham City University
  • Gemma Williams, Research Fellow at Birmingham City University’s Centre for Social Care, Health & Related Research
  • Professor Chris Denning, Founder of Project Period at the University of Nottingham
  • Jessica Campbell, University of Edinburgh
  • Dr Bee Hughes, Senior Lecturer in Media, Culture, Communication at Liverpool John Moores University

Businesses / Charities

  • Rachel Grocott, CEO, Bloody Good Period
  • Helen Marshall, CEO, Brook
  • Jemima Olchawski, CEO, The Fawcett Society
  • Celia Hodson, CEO, Hey Girls
  • Holly Plews, Founder and Director, Free the Flow
  • Emily Wilson, CEO, Irise International
  • Rose Caldwell, CEO, Plan International UK
  • Tina Leslie, Founder, Freedom4Girls UK
  • Leah Remfry-Peploe, Co-Founder, one
  • Joan Pearce-Burke, Founder and CEO, TOTM
  • Susan Allen, Co-Founder, Here We Flo
  • Afsaneh Parvizi-Wayne, Founder, Freda
  • Ruby Raut, CEO and Co-Founder, Wuka
  • Susie Hewson, Founder, Natracare
  • Richard Johnson, Head of Impact at DAME

When asked why this open letter is so important Grocott said “There’s clearly a need for universal, free period products across the UK.”

She continues: “The steps taken by the government to date have not addressed the problem - only 50% of schools accessed the scheme for free products last year, and the removal of the tampon tax has not passed on any savings to consumers.”

Grocott also mentions that others such as groups refugees and asylum seekers desperately need to access period products. “

Those relying on food banks and community support groups, and others living in financial hardship have been ignored by the steps taken so far, leaving charities to provide these essential items,” she says.

HuffPost UK reached out to the Government Equalities Office and a government spokesperson said: “The Government has taken a number of steps to ensure that sanitary products are available and affordable for all who need them, including scrapping VAT, providing free period products in hospitals, and spending more than £6 million on free period products for colleges and schools.

“We are committed to tackling period poverty,” they said.