EFFORTS to reduce period poverty in Calderdale are to be stepped up.

Calderdale Council will support and supplement local efforts and statutory national measures to reduce period poverty, ensuring vulnerable girls and women in the borough have free access to sanitary products.

Alongside this, the council’s Cabinet agreed work will continue to break down the stigma surrounding menstruation.

The precise support the council will give will be fine tuned when a partnered Calderdale College research project, which aims to bring a deeper understanding of the impact period poverty and stigma is having on the borough, has been completed.

A likely model has been pioneered by Leeds City Council and is one of the options councillors will consider.

Council votes to tackle period poverty after heated debate in Council chamber

Cabinet member for Public Services and Communities, Coun Susan Press (Lab, Todmorden) said it seemed an anomaly that for decades contraception had been freely available but the same thing had not been done with sanitary products, which affected women.

“This is an attempt, and a successful one, to draw attention to not just the extent but the incredible stigma if you can’t afford sanitary products and situations arising from that,” she said.

“It’s good news the Government is recognising this as an issue, but what we are trying to do in Calderdale is go above and beyond it.”

The issue also progressed the council’s anti-poverty agenda, said Coun Press.

The decision welcomes initiatives under way from Government and locally, including sterling work done by voluntary sector organisations, but also sets out options to enhance provision further for those who cannot afford sanitary products.

Commenting on reducing stigma, Coun Roisin Cavanagh (Lab, Luddenden Foot) said: “I can’t stress enough how much it is for a girl not to be able to go to school because of that, how much education is lost.

“It is a gender equality issue and the stigma issue is very important.”

Cabinet were told the Leeds scheme supplied sanitary products to schools and colleges and a Calderdale scheme would cost around £19,000 per year.

Other options will also be considered but the report to councillors calls the Leeds project “exemplary”.