Access to period products: monitoring and evaluation strategy 2021/22 to 2024/25
Evaluation and monitoring strategy on free access to period products. The Period Products (Free Provision) (Scotland) Act 2021 came into force on 15 August 2022. This document presents the approach to evaluating and monitoring implementation of the Act.
Agreed approach to data collection
An overview of data collection arrangements in relation to non-statutory provision in educational settings is presented in Annex B.
Subsequently an approach to data collection on the provision delivered by local authorities was agreed between the Scottish Government and COSLA in April 2021. This reporting was to capture more robust baseline costs, and help to understand changes in uptake and cost that occur as we move forward.
Monitoring and evaluation objectives
Monitoring and evaluation are essential for:
- Accountability: the Scottish Government needs to be able to respond to scrutiny about use of public resources and that the levels of funding they are providing is appropriate.
- Learning: to understand how access to free period products is being provided, including costs, challenges and impacts.
The key objectives of monitoring and evaluation from the period 2021/22 -2024/25 are to:
- Inform Scottish Government funding allocations to local authorities and education providers to ensure proportionate funding to support current uptake and costs.
- Inform understanding of current delivery, including reach, uptake, costs and accessibility.
- Inform future delivery of the policy, including through the identification of 'best practice'.
Key research questions
A basic logic model has been produced for the access to period products policy area, including the inputs, anticipated outputs and short and long-term outcomes (Annex C). This logic model has been used to guide the research questions and approach to data collection set out in this strategy.
Monitoring and evaluation will address the following five key research questions:
Q1: How much does delivering access to free period products cost?
a) What was local authorities' and education providers' total spend on providing access to free period products?
b) What was local authorities' and education providers' total spend on purchasing period products?
c) What is the average unit cost of period products purchased by local authorities and education providers?
d) What additional costs did local authorities' and education providers' incur (e.g. marketing, ongoing delivery, staffing)?
Q2: What level of demand is there for free period products?
a) How many period products were purchased by local authorities and education providers? How does this compare to the number required to meet the requirements of the whole menstruating population in Scotland?
b) What proportion of period product users reported accessing free period products from their local authority or education provider? Did this differ by area or user demographics?
c) How often are product users accessing period products from their local authority or education provider?
Q3: How is access to free period products being provided by local authorities and education providers?
a) Where are free products being provided?
b) What product types, brands and absorbencies are being made available?
c) Are product users aware of where and how they can access free period products from their local authority or education provider?
Q4: Does delivery of access to free period products meet user needs?
a) Among those accessing free period products from their local authority or education provider, what were the reasons?
b) Were product users able to access their preferred product types?
c) Were product users able to access products in a sufficient quantity to meet their needs?
d) Did product users experience any barriers to accessing free period products?
e) Do product users feel that delivery allows for dignified access to free period products?
f) Do product users feel able to influence the delivery of access to free period products by their local authority or education provider?
Q5: What impact did the availability of free period products have on users?
a) As a result of the availability of free period products, are product users less worried about having their period?
b) As a result of the availability of free period products, do product users feel more able to continue with their day-to-day activities (including attending work and education)?
c) Has the availability of free period products had any impact on household finances?
Approach to monitoring and evaluation
The approach to monitoring and evaluation will comprise three key elements:
1. Baseline data collection (2021/22). Key monitoring data requested from all local authorities, colleges and universities on the costs associated with delivery of access to free period products incurred during 2021/22. Additionally, a survey to gather baseline data about the current attitudes and experiences of people who may need to use period products took place in July/August 2022 to gather data on experiences over the 2021/22 period prior to the Act coming into force. Findings will be published shortly.
2. Evidence-based additional funding (2022/23 – 2025/26): Additional funding will be made available to all local authorities, colleges and universities in financial years 2022/23 to 2025/26 to support delivery where their full funding allocations have been used. Bids to this additional funding will require submission of robust evidence, as detailed in the following section.
3. Independent evaluation (2022/23 – 2025/26). Process and impact evaluations will be conducted in May to September 2025 covering the three-year period from 2022/23 to 2025/26.
A detailed overview of research questions and data sources are presented in Annex D. An overview of benefits and risks to the proposed approach are presented in Annex E.
The following sections provide more detail on each of these elements.
1. Baseline data collection (2021/22)
The aims of baseline data collection are to:
- contribute to understanding of the costs associated with the delivery of access to free period products in educational and community settings
- contribute to understanding of the current attitudes and experiences of people who may need to use period products.
- enable the Scottish Government to respond to scrutiny about the use of public resources and what has been achieved.
To achieve these aims, there are two main strands to the baseline data collection. The first focusing on the financial costs of implementation. The second looking at attitudes and experiences of those who are eligible for free period products.
To understand whether funding allocations were sufficient, the following funding data was collected from local authorities, colleges and universities:
- Total spend on delivery of the policy (including costs associated with period products and administration)
- Total spend on period products, broken down by disposable/reusable period products if available.
- Total number of period products (units) purchased, broken down by disposable/reusable period products if available.
This baseline funding data was intended to determine whether any uplift was required to funding allocations. The uplift was to be applied if:
- funding allocations recalculated using the median product unit price and
- the median estimated uptake rate exceed the non-adjusted (i.e. transferred) funding allocations. The criteria for applying an uplift was to be agreed with COSLA and the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) in advance of this process.
However, while data collection took place, this was done over the course of an academic year highly impacted by pandemic restrictions. This meant that footfall in educational and community settings were significantly reduced. Therefore, analysis of demand did not provide a meaningful overview of actual delivery costs.
At the time of this report, analysis of the available data did not support applying an uplift to the quantum for 2022/23. This is because overall spend was only 53% of quantum, although individually there was a significant range between Local Authorities. As highlighted above, the Scottish Government recognised that this academic year was highly affected by the impact of the pandemic and an increase of spend is to be expected for 2022/23.
2. Evidence-based additional funds
The Scottish Government also recognised that there is an unknown level of risk which may be significant should there be a sharp risk in uptake of free period products, following the commencement of the Act.
Taking this potential risk into account, and as agreed by COSLA Leaders in April 2021, the Scottish Government agreed to operate an additional, 'bid-in' evidence-based fund, which will be made available to local authorities, as well as colleges and universities, across the period of 2022/23 to 2025/26. This will allow local authorities, colleges and universities who have used their full funding allocation in a financial year to apply for additional funding to allow them to provide more products to those who need them. The Scottish Government has developed details of this fund in collaboration with COSLA and SFC.
The fund will be open to bids only where evidence is provided demonstrating full spend (or projected full spend) of allocated annual funding allocations. The fund will be open to bids to cover either:
- One-off costs, such as marketing or promotional campaigns, expansion or revisions to existing delivery approaches that cannot be met from existing allocations; or
- Ongoing delivery costs, arising due to uptake in excess of the funded level.
Bids to the fund will require bodies to provide evidence of delivery, which is likely to include:
- Evidence of spend against full year allocations, including a breakdown by product costs and administrative costs;
- Projected spend for the remainder of the financial year to 31 March and a narrative explaining the basis for this projection;
- Numbers and types of products purchased;
- Product unit cost (where this information is not provided, the median unit cost from 2021/22 baseline data will be assumed).
Attitudes and experiences around free period products
In addition to funding information, the evaluation seeks to understand the impact the policy will have on those benefitting from it. Baseline data on the current attitudes and experiences of people who may need to use free period products has been collected during July/August 2022. This was collected through a nationally representative survey of 800-1000 people aged 16 and over who may need to use period products. This approach enables direct comparisons between the baseline data and the forthcoming 2025 data, as the survey can be replicated as part of the 2025 evaluation.
The survey gathered information on the current attitudes and experiences of menstruating people in terms of:
- Being worried about having their period
- Being worried about using period products
- Having difficulties in accessing period products
- Being able to continue with day to day activities during their period, including attendance at work/and or education
- Experiences of the amount of money having to spend on period products on a regular/monthly basis
- Ability to afford the range of period products which meet their own needs
- Whether there are any differences in attitudes/experiences amongst those who have been able to access free period products already
It also gathered information on the current reach / take up of free period products so far, considering:
- Reasons for accessing free period products
- Whether people are able to access their preferred product types and sufficient quantity of products to meet their needs
- Whether users are experiencing any barriers to accessing free period products
- Whether product users feel they have been able to achieve dignified access to free period products
The baseline survey results will be published shortly.
3. Independent evaluation
An independent evaluation will be commissioned by the Scottish Government in April 2025 to examine statutory provision by local authorities, colleges and universities from 2022/23 to 2024/25. The evaluation will be carried out between May to September 2025, with a final report published in October 2025.
The evaluation will consider process and impact (for an overview of research questions that will be considered see Annex D), alongside making recommendations for future delivery of the policy. The quantitative data obtained through the evaluation on uptake and costs will be used to update funding allocations for 2026/27.
The evaluation scope will be refined through engagement with external stakeholders, including COSLA, SFC, local authorities, colleges and universities.
The evaluation will take a mixed methods approach in collecting qualitative and quantitative data. The views and experience of product users will be gathered to inform understanding. Direct comparisons will be made with the baseline data collected on attitudes and experiences of people who need to use period products over the 2021/22 period. This will allow the evaluation to assess how views and experiences have changed over time since the Act has come into force.
A project steering group will be established by the Scottish Government to oversee this evaluation.
Two key outputs will be published:
- A summary report of baseline data collected during 2021/22.
- A comprehensive evaluation report covering delivery between 2022/23 to 2024/25, which will synthesise learning, take-stock of the evidence base, make policy recommendations and identify gaps.
Baseline survey data on attitudes and experiences of people who may need to use period products gathered: July/August 2022
Publication of summary report of baseline data: November 2022
Bid in fund operates: 2022/23- 2025/26
Independent evaluation of delivery from 2022/23 to 2024/25 commissioned: April 2025
Independent evaluation of delivery from 2022/23 to 2024/25 carried out: May to September 2025
Final outputs published from independent evaluation: October 2025
Funding baselined: 2026/27
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