'Nothing has been done' on period poverty by Leeds Council, claims councillor

A senior Leeds City Councillor has hit back at accusations that the authority has done ‘nothing’ to help young people suffering from period poverty in the district.

Leeds City Council says it plans to roll out the offer of free sanitary products for young people across the city.

Following a question regarding period poverty, Liberal Democrat deputy group leader Coun Jonathan Bentley suggested “nothing had been done” to help young females who are unable to afford sanitary products, following a commitment from the council in 2018 to work towards providing providing them.

In his response, the council’s executive member for learning, skills and employment Coun Jonathan Pryor (Lab) said the scheme was being piloted in three schools already and that it would be rolled out across the whole city in September.

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At a full meeting of Leeds City Council on Wednesday, Coun Bentley asked: “How many young people have benefited from the council’s scheme to alleviate period poverty and at what cost to the council?”

Leeds City Council says it plans to roll out the offer of free sanitary products for young people across the city.

Coun Pryor responded: “Over the past year, the council has been designing a plan to deal with period poverty in Leeds.

“We want to eliminate period poverty by providing free sanitary products to schools, one stop shops, community hubs and libraries across Leeds.

“We have held focus groups in schools and trialled different approaches to distributing products.”

He added that an app was currently under development which would allow young people to access products from community hubs across Leeds.

Coun Bentley responded: “I take that as ‘none’, then, because I didn’t actually get an answer to the question of ‘how many young people’ and ‘how much’.

“This was first brought to the council’s attention in a budget amendment by this [Liberal Democrat] group in 2018, and nothing has been done since.”

He then argued that a so-called “p-card” system, which has recently been introduced by sexual health charity Plan International. This is a scheme in which vulnerable and disadvantaged young people would show a card at designated premises in return for free period products.

But Coun Pryor hit back, claiming: “In terms of actual young girls we have helped so far, we have the pilot scheme in three schools and we have community hubs.

“We put the products in there, but we don’t count the number of people who go and use it.”

He added that the date to roll the scheme out city-wide was always September 2019, and nothing had changed.

“At the moment, there are schools which have their own schemes. Some have their own schemes and other are doing nothing. We are making sure that we have full coverage.

“You mention the p-card every single time. We have spoken to young people in these pilot areas and they say ‘why do I need a card? why can’t I just go and get some?’

“Are we going to get to a point where we have pharmacies saying ‘if you haven’t brought your p-card, you can’t have any’? If someone needs one, they need one.

“While the p card has fantastic aims, it’s not something that our young people want.”