Free period products scheme 'outside health remit' for Northern Ireland
Health minister says a plan to provide free products should not be financed solely by his department.
Mr Swann also expressed concern over the potential cost of providing free period products for all "in the context of a very challenging financial situation, where the draft budget is not sufficient to cover the existing demands across the health and social care system".
He said health officials had estimated the total cost of the bill would be at least £3m a year.In additional oral evidence to the education committee, Dr Tomas Adell, from the Department of Health, said while the department should have a "huge input" into the bill it should not have "universal duty" for it as it was a cross-departmental issue.Read more: BBC News (UK) »
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Student helps 3,000 refugees out of period poverty Mr Swann also expressed concern over the potential cost of providing free period products for all "in the context of a very challenging financial situation, where the draft budget is not sufficient to cover the existing demands across the health and social care system". He said health officials had estimated the total cost of the bill would be at least £3m a year. In additional oral evidence to the education committee, Dr Tomas Adell, from the Department of Health, said while the department should have a "huge input" into the bill it should not have "universal duty" for it as it was a cross-departmental issue. "It is not dealing with a healthcare issue even though it has healthcare consequences and that's a problem," he said. "When it comes to public health and healthcare issues, the general position we take on products is that if a product is used for something that's not a treatment and is not preventable then it is not a healthcare issue. "For example, food supplements are very useful for our wellbeing but it's not a healthcare product. "Most things in society impact on our health, that doesn't make them healthcare issues themselves. "It's a very important distinction for us to draw because otherwise we would be responsible for everything in society." Image caption, The plan is in a private member's bill from SDLP assembly member Pat Catney The education committee chair, Alliance Party assembly member Chris Lyttle, said Dr Adell had made a "significant intervention" by saying the department should not be responsible for the universal provision of period products. "I'm concerned," said Mr Lyttle. "I have seen important provisions fall between the stools of cross-departmental co-operation too many times." Meanwhile, information to the committee from the assembly's Research and Information Service said a three-year pilot scheme to provide free period products in schools was likely to cost £500,000 less than originally estimated. The period dignity pilot scheme for pupils , which began in September 2021, is likely to cost £2.1m rather than £2.6m. The Department of Education said about a third of schools in Northern Ireland - 322 - had ordered period products from the scheme by the end of November 2021. Previous research by the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA) into the school scheme suggested , while about one in 12 said they had missed school because they did not have any. More on this story