Thursday, 27 June 2019

Ceisteanna (132, 133, 134, 135)

Louise O'Reilly

Ceist:

132. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Health the estimated cost of providing free female hygiene products to all women in receipt of a medical card. [27242/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Louise O'Reilly

Ceist:

133. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Health the estimated cost of providing free female hygiene products to all women in receipt of a general practitioner card. [27243/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Louise O'Reilly

Ceist:

134. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Health the estimated cost of providing free female hygiene products to all girls between 12 and 18 years of age. [27244/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Louise O'Reilly

Ceist:

135. Deputy Louise O'Reilly asked the Minister for Health the estimated cost of providing free female hygiene products to all women in homeless shelters. [27245/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Health)

I propose to take Questions Nos. 132 to 135, inclusive, together.

Period poverty is defined as the inability to afford female sanitary products and is a significant equality and equity concern. Female sanitary products can be either disposable (sanitary towels, tampons and panty liners) or reusable (menstrual cups, cloth menstrual pads and period panties).

A motion on period poverty, proposed by the cross-party Women’s Parliamentary Caucus, was passed in the Dáil on Wednesday, March 13, 2019, and in the Seanad on Wednesday March 27, 2019. Amongst other things, the motion called on the Government to provide a range of free, adequate, safe and suitable sanitary products and accompanying information, to be distributed throughout all public buildings.

Cost estimates of €132 to €208 per annum per woman in Ireland have been mentioned in the context of a recent Plan International survey and during the recent Oireachtas debates on period poverty in Ireland. Furthermore, newer products are subject to the standard rate of VAT, while older products avail of an exemption and are subject to zero percent VAT.

It has been agreed that the best way to progress this matter is through the National Strategy for Women and Girls (NSWG) Strategy Committee, which is led by the Department of Justice and Equality and includes representation from across Government, the HSE, the National Women’s Council of Ireland and a number of NGOs.

The issues raised were discussed at the last meeting of the NSWG Strategy Committee, which was held on June 11, 2019; it was agreed at the meeting that a sub-Committee on period poverty, chaired by the Department of Health, but including representation from a number of Government Departments and NGOs, including the National Women's Council of Ireland, would be convened to explore the issue further. Work is ongoing in terms of agreeing representation from relevant Departments and organisation and scheduling an initial meeting of the Sub-Group, which will examine the issues involved, including costs, in greater detail.