Test Valley Borough Council (TVBC) will investigate the possibility of providing support to eradicate period poverty following a motion being brought before it.

A motion to ask TVBC to provide free period products in all its buildings, as well as contributing a payment to schools to do the same, had been brought before the council on January 27. Following debate, it was decided the motion should be considered by the council as it falls within its purview.

At a cabinet meeting on March 10, councillors decided to have offices draw up a report into period poverty in Test Valley before committing to a course of action.

Cllr Victoria Harber, who seconded the motion, said she didn’t think “there’s any excuse in this day and age for women or girls to not have access to this [period products] and as more people are being pushed into poverty I think it’s out duty to ensure that they can still go to work and school.”

The motion was considered by councillors on Wednesday, March 10, with Cllrs David Coole and Harber, the motion’s proposer and seconder, being invited to address the meeting.

Cllr Coole said: “Period Poverty should matter to all of us and we need to find a way to eradicate it within Test Valley. We all know Covid-19 has resulted in economic hardship for many families which will only exacerbate the situation.”

He noted the UK Government currently funds 35 per cent of the cost of period products for schools in England, but said this motion would be a “safety net” should demand for products increase.

He said: “If all entitled learners needed period products the schools and colleges would not be able to provide for 65 per cent of them or would have to rely on charitable donations.

“Were the full 65 per cent of funding ever to be required it would require a total of £87,538 funding in one year.

“The funding levels can be reviewed annually based on schools and colleges takeup and any changes to the English scheme. In the best instance, this is a safety net for schools and colleges. Should there be increased demand for period products, they would be able to come to the council and obtain funding.”

He added: “Provision of free period products within the council’s buildings will hopefully inspire other businesses to follow suit.”

Cllr Harber then spoke, describing it as a “really important issue.”

She said: “I don’t think there’s any excuse in this day and age for women or girls to not have access to this and as more people are being pushed into poverty I think it’s out duty to ensure that they can still go to work and school.

“I spoke to my daughter and several of her friends, which they were all hugely embarrassed about, and many of them said if they didn’t have products available at home for whatever reason they would rather miss school than running to the toilet every five minutes to stuff tissue in their knickers which I can completely understand and I’m sure most of the women here have experienced something similar in their time.

It’s awful, and if you’ve got teenage girls saying they’d rather skip education if they don’t have access to it then that is just wrong in this day and age. The same goes for the workplace.

“I think it’s our duty to keep people to be able to go to work and not be embarrassed about something they have no control over.”

Cllr Tracey Tasker, the cabinet member for corporate affairs, subsequently spoke, saying it was “unfortunate” that people feel uncomfortable addressing menstrual issues.

She noted, however, that other bodies already provide free products to members of the public.

She said: “I am aware though there are a number of existing initiatives both at a national and local level to tackle this issue such as schemes run by the NHS, foodbanks, schools and the county council.

She continued: “Despite the initiatives that have already been brought in, I would like to ask officers to undertake a more detailed piece of work to better understand what support is currently available, how this can be accessed and whether there might be any gaps in provision so that we can consider what further support might be appropriate.

“It is important that we take the time to properly understand the needs of those who face period poverty and what we make might be able to do to help those in what you will agree must be a distressing situation.”

The proposal was seconded by Cllr North, and passed without dissent. The report will be brought to a future meeting of the cabinet for discussion.