Portland College, based in Mansfield, is a specialist college providing a lifetime of opportunity for people with disabilities and staff at the college firmly believe the period equality scheme has had an impact on the lives of its learners and the college’s ability to provide for them.
Rebecca Harley, Information, Advice, Guidance and Transitions manager at Portland College, said: “All of our learners have some form of disability, and 30 per cent of all people with disabilities live in poverty, so it was really important for us to engage with this scheme and support our community.
“We have always understood that our learners need access to period products, they’re a necessity not a luxury, and we were initially buying them for the learners that needed it from our own college budget.
"Being able to access those products for free through the scheme means we can ensure our learners always have access to their education.”
The free period product scheme is for all young people in English state schools and 16-19 organisations, providing products to those who need them, including students who cannot afford products, have forgotten them, or come on their period unexpectedly.
The scheme has been extended until July 2022 as part of the Government’s drive to end period poverty and support disadvantaged pupils.
Portland College ensures their learners have access to period products whenever they need them.
Amy Smith, assistant speech and language therapist at the college, who is also involved in the period equality programme, said: “We make sure our learners have access to the information they need, not only so they know how to access products but also how to use them, as they need that little bit of extra support.
"We’ve created accessible resources using symbols and photos of the products available and how you use each product differently.”
Given the wide range of needs that the college caters for, a similarly varied approach in terms of accessing the products was needed. Learners can access products by speaking to members of staff, asking reception for products or at a number of points across the campus.
The team at Portland have developed a paper slip that learners can hand over if they’re non-verbal, or if they prefer to be more discreet.
Ms Smith said: “We’d love for the scheme to keep developing at the college; for more users to take up the resources but also what we access from the scheme. At the moment, due to the type of learners we have, we only request pads and we’d love to expand this to use more sustainable options like period pants.
“Self-care is a big part of what we try to communicate to our students, and period pants could hugely increase our learners’ independence and as a by-product, their dignity during their period, so we’d like to see these products and additional guidance in this area be a focus going forward.”