By Emma Legg - The Red Box Project co-ordinator for Brighton & Hove
Following an announcement on 13th March by Philip Hammond in his Spring Statement committing to funding menstrual products in secondary schools and colleges, The Red Box Project argued that this policy must be extended to include all children in full-time compulsory education, such as those in primary schools. A month later 16th April the government announced that, as of early 2020, they will extend their offering of free menstrual products to primary schools too. That means all schools and colleges will have free menstrual products by early 2020, in England, Wales and Scotland. It's really quite incredible.
The details are yet to be announced or worked out, but our founders are speaking to members of the Department for Education and we hope that strong plans will be put in place to support young people. The latest information suggests that, instead of leading with secondary schools and colleges and then following with primary schools, the government will launch one scheme in early 2020. This is different to what we were expecting, but we think its good news and should lead to a more consistent, well considered approach across all schools.
Where does that leave the RBP?
The Red Box Project was created to fill a gap in provisions and to allow young people to stay in school throughout their period. When the government's plans get put into action, it will be time for us to move on, to close our projects and to allow the government to do the work we've been asking them to do for so long.
Based on the current information we have from the government; we will now continue to supply secondary schools and all other boxes until early 2020. When the government’s scheme comes into place, the Red Box Project will close. Our founders will make a decision on exactly when we end the Project when they know more about the timings, but expect that a year from now, by Easter 2020, the Red Box Project will be no more.
Our Welsh and Scottish projects are also coming to an end following their recent announcements of immediate funding.
So, for now, it's business as usual. To a point. We will absolutely keep supplying schools, but are keeping in mind the timings above and from now on won’t make applications for grants, will reconsider large donations, supermarket token schemes etc. We expect both donations and requests to slow down in the months leading up to the schemes being put in place and eventually will phase out donation points altogether.
How many projects get to cease to exist because they achieved what they set out to? We are incredibly proud to have been part of this immense project.
We also want to thank each and every one of our supporters that have liked and shared social media posts, donated products, time or money. We have relied completely on community kindness and Brighton and Hove have shown it in abundance, Sister Society and its members especially.
It’s important to highlight too, that period poverty effects people outside of education as well and although we are celebrating our achievement, 375+ RBP volunteers nationwide are now considering how to support other projects and organisations to eradicate period poverty in the UK completely.
For more information on how Period Poverty effects people in the UK and how you could get involved we really recommend having a look at Bloody Good Period, Free Periods, Homeless Period, Pink Protest, Hygiene Banks, Beauty Banks, Period Poverty UK and your local food banks.