Period poverty: Soaring costs 'driving use of socks and pillow cases' instead of period products

Freedom4girls charity founder Tina Leslie says demand for period products is surging. Credit: Tina Leslie MBE / PA

By multimedia producer Rachel Dixon

People are using 'socks and even the inside of pillow cases' as they can't afford tampons and pads, as the cost of living crisis worsens.

According to the charity Bloody Good Period, those struggling with the rising cost of living are being forced to choose between food or a pack of pads - and ‘this is only going to get worse’. 

Last year, one charity alone donated 120,000 packs of sanitary products to people who could no longer afford to buy the necessities to have a clean, dignified period.  

Across the UK, Bloody Good Period said the demand for products rose by 88% in 2022, with the charity giving out 56,000 more packs than the year before.  

The group has been running since 2016, providing period supplies and menstrual education to asylum seekers, refugees, and vulnerable people. But they say the cost of living crisis has left greater numbers in need.  

They work with over 100 partner organisations across England and Wales, but have had more requests from groups for products including NHS community care teams, domestic violence services, homeless hostels, new food banks and sex workers' support services.

Tina Leslie MBE delivers period products round schools, food banks and different businesses with her charity freedom4girls Credit: Tina Leslie

Tina Leslie, who founded charity freedom4girls, originally set out to help women from Kenya cope with their periods but now works to help people who menstruate in the UK.

The 57-year-old founder, from Leeds, said: "We have found people using the usual toilet paper, but also socks, tea towels even the inside of pillow cases.

"It’s not a healthy option, these can all lead to infections and hormonal issues

"The shame, stigma, and taboo surrounding period poverty and having to worry where your next pad is coming from is adding to the everyday stresses of people.

"If they can’t access period products they can’t go to work which then makes everything spiral and hopeless."

Bloody Good Period warns of a risk of infections when people are using items such as toilet roll and socks instead of sanitary products.

Why is period poverty getting worse? 

The current economic situation has created a vicious cycle of rising bills, less disposable income and inflation - which has also hit period products.

Inflation has caused the cost of the cheapest period products to rocket.

 Tesco's cheapest pads were recorded recently doubled in price from 2p a pad (23p a pack) to 4p a pad (42p a pack), according to personal finance advice website MoneySavingExpert.  

To some struggling with rising bills, menstrual products fall into the lowest priority when juggling the costs of heating a home and buying nappies too, Ms Leslie said.

"If you have £1 left in your pocket you're going to choose to buy a loaf of bread to feed your children over expensive period products. It’s a dire situation for some.

She added; "We have seen a massive increase in our product provision since the cost of living crisis began, its been creeping up month on month.

"So many people are coming to us struggling. Recently we had a local university staff member approach us to say they had encountered a member of staff not having access and caught short - and not one toilet had access to products.

"This should not have been an issue in the first place all toilets should have access to period products, end of."How can you help?

All schools and colleges should have access to the free government period product scheme so no young person goes without. Schools have to opt in through the Department of Education.

People should be able to access free period products through foodbanks, and Citizens Advice offers referrals.

Donate to Bloody Good Period here and freedom4girls here .

You can also set up your own donation station for products with help from Freedom4Girls

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