Empty boxes spark criticism of government's free period product scheme

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THE government’s free period-product scheme has come under fire on social media as Islanders post photographs of empty boxes in locations where the products should be.

The criticism came yesterday as the government announced the expansion of the scheme to more than 20 new locations, including both female and male public toilets.

Posting a picture of an empty dispenser on X (formerly Twitter), charity worker Emily Smith said: ‘If @GovJersey [the Government of Jersey] are going to commit to providing free period products then there needs to be some.’

She also criticised the way the products were stored, suggesting that a vending machine ‘would be way more hygienic and dignified’ than the current set-up of a ‘box of either none or half-opened packets’.

In another photo, period products are stored in a box on the floor of the public toilet at Les Quennevais Sports Centre.

Replying to Miss Smith’s post, some suggested that the low stock may be due to people taking more products than they need. However, in yesterday’s announcement of the expansion of the scheme, Social Security Minister Elaine Millar reiterated the fact that ‘the products are free for all Islanders and people can take whatever they need’.

Miss Smith said: ‘As a woman who works for a charity, and just left another charity, supporting vulnerable people I don’t think what the government has done is good enough.’

The government replied to Miss Smith’s tweet stating that ‘all the public toilet locations are being checked and stocked twice daily’.

The scheme also faced criticism last month, when Reform Jersey Deputy Lyndsay Feltham called the Chief Minister ‘disingenuous’ for giving her backing to a ‘disappointing’ plan to scrap her previous commitment to remove GST from period products.

Deputy Kristina Moore hit back, claiming that the scheme was a ‘more effective way to address period poverty than removing GST’.

Deputy Feltham agreed that the free menstrual products ‘may well help people suffering from period poverty’, but explained that it ‘relies on you finding yourself in one of those free locations at the right time’.

The Deputy added that there ‘quite clearly’ are not enough free products for ‘every single woman to take what they need’ from the locations where they are available.

In a statement, Customer and Local Services said: ‘Full details of all venues can be found on gov.je/periods, including how often venues are checked to top up supplies of period products.

‘For the public toilets, these are checked twice daily – in the morning and in the afternoon. These checks are carried out by the same contractors that look after the cleaning requirements of the toilets, at no additional cost.’

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