'Teenage girls missing school due to Tampon Tax'

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'Period poverty' is a growing problem in Wakefield, according to a councillor.

Coun Michael Graham, who represents Wakefield West, says that some girls and women in the area can’t afford to pay for sanitary products.

He is raising the issue at a full council meeting this Wednesday and wants the government to make the items more affordable.

Coun Graham, a secondary school teacher, said that inequality was at the root of the problem.

He said: “We’re seeing a lot of women and girls in my ward who are struggling to afford sanitary products.

“From my own profession I’ve seen that between the ages of 11 and 14 there’s a big difference between boys and girls in terms of being absent from school. Girls are much more likely to be absent, and I think period poverty has potentially been a big influence on that.

“We’d like the government to carry out a lot more research on this.”

Coun Graham said that while some schools have stocks of products to give out for free in emergencies, poorer schools did not.

And he backed Dewsbury MP Paula Sherriff’s ongoing campaign to scrap VAT on sanitary products – known as the tampon tax.

Former Prime Minister David Cameron initially agreed to the proposal, but Brexit negotiations have now complicated the issue.

As it stands, 20 per cent VAT is still attached to sanitary products, but the money from it now goes to women’s charities.

Coun Graham said: “Absolutely I’d back scrapping VAT on them.

“A lot of the cash from VAT now goes to charity, so I think things have been done to address the issue and there has been progress, but we need to go a lot further.

Ms Sherriff said that ministers were “dragging their feet” on the issue.

She said: “Despite securing a commitment from the government to scrap the tampon tax in my first year as an MP, the issue is rumbling on. Ultimately, we’re now waiting until 2022 for one of two things to happen – a recent change to EU law which takes effect in that year, or Brexit – whichever comes first. Both will allow for the tampon tax levy to be scrapped.

“In the meantime, I’m working with campaigners to keep the pressure on – securing support from a number of the big retailers in meeting the cost of the tampon tax, and raising the profile of period poverty – it’s essential that we bring this hidden scandal into the open.

“It’s an outrage that schoolgirls are missing school because their families can’t afford sanitary products. Yet there are simple, inexpensive steps that can be taken – supplying schools and refuges with sanitary protection would be a good start.”

David Spereall , Local Democracy Reporting Service