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Radical bid to alleviate period poverty in the community

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Basic sanitary products could soon be provided free of charge in community centres as part of Fife efforts to tackle period poverty.

Community learning and development staff in Cowdenbeath have been asked by councillors to investigate what can be done to help women who cannot afford the items they need every month, with a view to rolling out the provision of tampons and pads.

The decision comes amid horrifying stories of women being admitted to hospital with toxic shock syndrome and other health issues because they were unable to buy expensive products, which are taxed as luxury items.

Councillor Linda Erskine, convener of Cowdenbeath area committee, compared the situation to that of Victorian Britain.

“We’re returning to a time where people are using socks and rags and it’s unbelievable,” she said.

“It’s due to poverty. If there’s no money for food and people are relying on food parcels then everything else becomes a luxury.”

Fife’s education director has already agreed to look into rolling out the provision of sanitary products across secondary schools following a motion by Labour’s Mrs Erskine and her SNP colleague Kate Stewart.

The Cowdenbeath area has now gone a step further after noting schools were closed for 175 days of the year and community workers were often providing basic sanitary protection for needy women out of their own pockets.

“Girls were missing school because of this so we agreed to look into providing items free of charge in schools,” Mrs Erskine said.

“Schools are only open 190 days of the year and the rest of the time they have no access to sanitary products.

“The rationale is to develop a delivery model in Cowdenbeath area to provide access to products for the other 175 days.”

The trial will be monitored to gauge demand, with a report coming back to councillors in April.

“Maybe by that time the rest of the council will catch up with provision across the board,” said Mrs Erskine.

“We can’t do everything but we have to help people live with some dignity.”

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