Tampon tax fund to support women with mental health problems

Mental health charity Mind and Agenda are launching the initiative 

Katie O'Malley
Thursday 28 March 2019 07:47
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Thousands of women living with mental health problems across England are to receive help from a new project backed by the Government's Tampon Tax Fund.

The Tampon Tax Fund allocates money generated from the VAT on sanitary products to projects to improve the lives of disadvantaged women and girls. It is open to charitable, benevolent and philanthropic organisations from across the United Kingdom.

Through the £1.8m initiative, which is called Women Side by Side, it is hoped the women will be able to find community-based peer support set up through around 70 projects.

The initiative is being spearheaded by mental health charity Mind and Agenda, an alliance which campaigns for women and girls at risk and last year received a share of the £15m Tampon Tax Fund from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

The projects will try to tackle mental health problems, homelessness, drug and alcohol misuse, abuse and violence, family breakdown, offending or a combination of these through the "pioneering peer support initiative”.

Mind’s director of external relations, Sophie Corlett, says the latter will offer a "safe, non-judgemental and collaborative space for women from all walks of life who need support for their mental health - whatever the reason”.

Five new hubs, including four in England and another in Wales, will act as learning centres supporting every project and run by women's organisations who have links to community groups.

Agenda chief executive Jemima Olchawski, predicts the initiative could make "a real difference to the lives of thousands of women.

"Mental health problems among women are on the rise, yet too many are unable to get the support they need, when they need it,” Olchawski says.

“The new projects will help to increase the availability of mental health peer support that recognises and responds to women's specific needs and experiences.

"Poor mental health among women is often closely linked to difficult life experiences like abuse and poverty, which is why this programme's focus on reaching the most disadvantaged and marginalised women is vital."

Clean Break women's theatre organisation, which works in prisons and other communities across the UK, and The Survivors' Forum, which is an online community providing peer support for women affected by domestic abuse, are among the projects.

The Ethiopian Women Empowerment Group, which is an organisation helping address mental health problems in women affected by the Grenfell Tower disaster, is another project involved with the initiative.

The organisation primarily works with women from Ethiopian, Moroccan, Egyptian, Eritrean, Somalian and Asian communities, helping them to gain independence, education and employment, and access to mainstream services.

Other organisations that have received funding include Rape Crisis England & Wales, Women’s Aid Federation of England, and One Parent Families Scotland.

Tracey Crouch, former Minister for Sport and Civil Society, says of the funding: “The money generated from sanitary products is being invested in good causes that tackle the serious issues that women of all ages face. It will be used to support vulnerable women and girls and help build a Britain fit for the future.”

Over 70 charities are already receiving grants through previous rounds of the fund, with a total of £32m of funding having been announced since the Autumn Statement 2015.

Earlier this month, Chancellor Philip Hammond pledged to end period poverty in schools in his spring statement.

Hammond said that in response to “growing concern from head teachers over access to period products”, he will fund the provision of free period products in secondary schools and colleges across England from next year.

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A survey of 1,000 girls and women aged 14 to 21 carried out for the charity Plan International in 2017 found that one in 10 had been unable to afford sanitary wear and 12 per cent had had to improvise protection because of the expensive cost.

In August 2018, the Scottish government became the first in the world to make sanitary products available free to all pupils and students at schools, colleges and universities.

Since it was announced in 2015, the Tampon Tax Fund has been met with criticism from several women's groups who argue that women shouldn’t be taxed for their own safety and wellbeing.

In 2017, it was exposed that quarter of a million pounds from the tampon tax would go to Life, a charity that campaigns against abortion.

At the time, Sophie Walker, the former leader of the Women's Equality Party, said it was a "shock" to find out the Government was planning on using the tampon tax fund to “support a charity whose mission is anti-choice and aims to ‘make abortion a thing of the past’.”

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