Annex A: Summary of Evidence
The SG funded a pilot in Aberdeen between September 2017 and February 2018. The pilot aimed to explore options for providing access to free period products in ways that provide choice and respect dignity, and to better understand the circumstances which prevent people accessing products. The pilot explored both targeted provision for those in low income households and provision open to all in educational settings.
Over 1,00 women and girls were recruited across low income groups, selected schools and a college and university. The evaluation found that two thirds of the participants with low income had experienced difficulties accessing products, compared with one third of college and university participants, and a fifth of school participants. The pilot provided tangible evidence that accessing period products can be an issue for a range of people, but that this disproportionately affects those on low incomes.
The main reasons given for difficulties with accessing products related to affordability. Other reasons included irregular or heavy periods, embarrassment and local access. Those in education settings also mentioned not having a product with you when you need one (e.g. at school). The evaluation also highlighted that, for some, being unable to access the products they need may impact on their wellbeing and, for a minority, their ability to continue with day to day activities during their period.
The SG also worked closely with Young Scot to gather insight on young people's views about access to period products. In 2018, Young Scot's online survey received over 2,000 responses and the results highlighted that around a quarter (26%) of respondents in education said they had 'struggled to access period products' in the previous year. Of those respondents in education who had experienced difficulty, 60% said that this was because they 'didn't have the product they needed', while 43% said they 'couldn't afford to buy period products'.
Young Scot carried out a follow up survey in 2020, which found that the current policy and delivery of access to free period products is having a positive impact on young people in Scotland. The survey, which had over 3,600 responses, identified that two-thirds (65%) of respondents had accessed free period products from their school, college or university in 2019. Among those who accessed the free products, 84% said the scheme had a positive impact on them, 83% said they were less worried about having their period, 60% were more able to continue with day-to-day activities during their period, and 23% said having access to products improved their mental health and wellbeing.
When asked why they accessed the free period products, almost all respondents selected 'I didn't have the product(s) I needed with me' (91.9%) and around 1 in 8 respondents reported that they accessed products because they/their family didn't have enough money to buy period products (12.6%).
Women for Independence's Free Period Scotland campaign ran a 12 question survey asking about experiences accessing period products. One in five respondents said that they have had to go without period products because of finances, while one in 10 said they had been forced to prioritise other essential household items over buying period products. Just over one in five (22%) reported they were not able to change their products as often as they would like to, with 11% of those describing a significant health impact because of this.
The Members Bill Public Consultation received 1,753 responses – 109 from organisations and 1, 644 from individuals. 96% of respondents supported the draft proposal of access to free period products (90% were fully supportive and 6 per cent were partially supportive).
Respondents were also asked their views on what overall impact the proposed Bill is likely to have on equality, taking account of the protected characteristics. The vast majority (86%) of the 1,741 respondents who answered this question believed the Bill would have an overall positive impact on equalities.
A variety of themes were identified, including:
- Access to free period products could contribute to reducing and removing the stigma attached to periods;
- It would increase equality for those who cannot afford period products and would stop those who menstruate having to pay for products they need on a monthly basis;
- Age inequality might be addressed by enabling younger people to access free period products thereby allowing them to continue with their education;
- Disabled people, who might be living on smaller incomes, would benefit;
- Transgender members of society who may also menstruate and therefore require period products would benefit;
However, 34 people (around 2%) who answered this question believed the proposal would have an overall negative effect on equalities. The main reason cited was that the proposal could be unfair on the wider community and was sexist. A further 217 (12%) respondents were either unsure or neutral on the proposed Bill.
United Kingdom Wide Evidence
In October 2017, Plan International published results of a survey of young women's experiences of menstruation in the UK. The results reported that: 10% of those surveyed have been unable to afford period products; 15% have also struggled to afford period products; 14% have had to ask to borrow period wear from a friend due to affordability issues; 12% have had to improvise period wear due to affordability issues; and 19% have changed to a less suitable period products due to cost.
In 2019, Always UK published a report based on 13 surveys fielded in the UK between 2015 and 2020, by independent research agencies . One survey carried out in 2019 (n=500 girls aged 10-18 and 1500 women 18-19 years old) highlighted that access to period products continues to be an issue in the UK, with 1 in 6 girls stating they experienced "period poverty" and 9 out of 10 respondents having had a friend ask them for period producs because they could not afford one themselves.
The report further highlighted that not being able to afford period products has a negative emotional, social and behavioural impact on people's lives. Young people from the survey above said not being able to afford period products makes them feel: embarrassed (61%), sad (39%), ashamed (33%), insecure (18%), left out from my friends (12%). Nearly 1 in 10 girls missed school because they did not have access to period products and have missed an average of 4.56 days of school because they/their family could not afford products.
In another study carried out in 2018 (n=1000 18-82 years old women) more than half of the respondents who were not able to afford products believed it has had a direct effect on their success, confidence and happiness.
The report highlighted that young people (UK n=500 10-18 years old) missed activities, avoided due to lack of access to period products. This included sports (24%), after school activities or clubs (18%), going to the gym or seeing friends locally (15%), going to friends' houses (14%), youth and community clubs (13%).
Amongst respondents who did not attend clubs or activities during their school years, 29% said it affected their ability to socialise, 22% feel it held them back in later life and 22% think they lacked skills necessary for teamwork/working with others later in life.
Amongst respondents who were able to access free period products (UK wide), 48% said it has enabled them to take part in (more) clubs, PE, sports, etc., whether in or out of school.
Difficulties with accessing period products were further exacerbated during Covid, with one study (n=1030 18-70 years olds, UK) reporting that 1 out of 5 adults stated they struggled to access period products. The main reason cited for this was that products were out of stock in shops (58%) and products were out of stock online (39%). 17% of respondents stated they could no longer afford period products and 1 out of 5 adults were worried about their ongoing ability to afford period products.
Similarly, the Plan International UK 2020 report highlighted that more than one in ten girls aged 14-21 (11%) had not been able to afford period products during lockdown and had to use makeshift products, such as toilet roll (54%), socks (11%), other fabric (8%) and newspaper/paper (6%). More than one in five girls who could afford period products (22%) were struggling to access them, mostly because they could not find them in the shops (64%).
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