Cost of Living: Period Poverty

Cost of Living: Period Poverty. An illustration of two racialised people holding sanitary products with a map behind them.

1 in 8 people are struggling to afford menstrual products in the cost of living crisis. 

We break down what period poverty is and where you can access support in the UK. 

Note: throughout this article, we use inclusive language for anyone who menstruates. This is to ensure accuracy in our reporting and to reflect the experiences of all those who have periods.

There’s still ways to go until conversations around periods are trans inclusive. Some of these links refer to only women and girls, so please take care when reading them.

What is period poverty?

Period poverty is a worldwide issue affecting over 500 million people who menstruate.

Access to period products and having safe, hygienic environments to use them is essential for anyone experiencing periods. Many don’t have access to this - particularly for people on low incomes. 

Anyone experiencing period poverty might:

  • Not be able to afford menstrual essentials, like pads or tampons
  • Not have access to hygienic places to change
  • Have little to no access to education about periods

What are the statistics around period poverty in the UK?

In 2018, research from Plan International UK found that period poverty affects 1 in 10 school children across the UK. This was higher in Scotland, with “the number [being closer to] 1 in 4.”

The organisation also reported the same year that nearly two million students missed school because of their period. 

Recent statistics from YouGov continue to show the ongoing struggle for people to access menstrual essentials.

1 in 8 people surveyed said they were unlikely to be able to afford period products due to the rise in the cost of living. 

Action Aid also stated how “nearly half (46%) of [people who menstruate] struggled to afford sanitary products in the last 6 months.” People instead have “kept sanitary pads or tampons in for longer, or used tissues.”

How are people experiencing marginalisation affected by period poverty?

Millions are affected by period poverty in the UK. 

However, there are few statistics on the struggles people experiencing multiple marginalisation face. 

On average, people with periods spend £10 a month on essentials and care. This expense isn’t affordable for lots of people on low or no income.

Homeless people who menstruate are usually unable to access the period products they need or the hygienic space to change. 

People seeking asylum or refugee are also at risk of experiencing period poverty. 

Where can I get period products for free?

There are multiple avenues of support if you’re struggling to afford period essentials. 


Local councils in Scotland offer period products for free. These products also include reusable alternatives to pads and tampons.

Contact your council to find out where you can access free period items.


A scheme in England provides schools and colleges with free menstrual items for people with periods

94% of secondary schools have now signed up - so it’s likely your school is part of the scheme too. Reach out to them for support.

If you work in a state school or college, find out if they're eligible to receive orders via the government’s website. 


In 2020, the Welsh government committed £3.3million to support people experiencing period poverty. 

They’ve teamed up with Hey Girls, an eco-friendly period company, to provide schools, colleges and community groups with free essentials.

The scheme is currently ongoing with updates provided on Hey Girls’ website

Northern Ireland

Legislation to support people experiencing period poverty in Northern Ireland passed in May 2022. 

A consultation has taken place to determine what organisations will be responsible for providing free period products. We’ll update this page when there are updates on available support. 

People seeking refugee or asylum

Bloody Good Period provides free period products to those who need it. 

Food banks

Your local food bank may also provide free essentials like period items. 

Find a food bank near to you with the Trussell Trust’s online locator and reach out for support. 



Northern Ireland branches of Lidl are running a Period Poverty Initiative, ensuring people with periods can access free menstrual products.

If you need period products, you can download Lidl’s app, Lidl Plus, and register on their website to receive a monthly coupon. This coupon will be sent to you on a monthly basis.


Morrisons are another supermarket providing period essentials for free. 

Customer service desks nationwide can be accessed for this support. Ask for a ‘package for Sandy’ or a ‘period product pack’ and you’ll be given a free - and discreet - envelope with what you need. 


PickupMyPeriod is an app to help you find free period products across the UK. 

You can download the app on iOS or Android. 

Note: this app is in collaboration with Hey Girl and the Scottish government. 

Know of any other groups or organisations offering support for people who menstruate? Email us at [email address here] with your suggestions to include.

Know of any other groups or organisations offering support for people who menstruate?

Email us at with your suggestions to include.

Struggling to find more cost of living support?

Our Cost of Living Resource Hub has over 50 organisations, groups and supportive services to help you. 

You may also find the following resources from our cost of living series helpful: