Lidl Northern Ireland is set to become the first supermarket retailer in Northern Ireland to provide free period products to customers in need as part of a major new initiative aimed at tackling period poverty.
The new initiative, which is being backed by Homeless Period Belfast, will see the retailer offer a dedicated coupon for a free box of sanitary pads or tampons per customer each month, redeemed through the Lidl Plus app.
Since April, Lidl Northern Ireland has also been making regular donations of sanitary wear to the Simon Community Northern Ireland to ensure people experiencing homelessness – who may not have access to a smartphone – can access these essential products.
Period poverty is described as the lack of access to sanitary products, menstrual hygiene education, toilets, hand washing facilities, and, or, waste management, and is a growing issue in Northern Ireland which has become more prevalent since the Covid-19 pandemic.
A survey by equality charity Plan International UK recently found that more than a third (36%) of girls aged 14-21 in the UK have struggled to afford or access period products during the Coronavirus pandemic – up a fifth on last year.
The Homeless Period Belfast was established in 2016 to raise awareness of period poverty locally. The volunteer-led, not-for-profit group works to provide period products to those in need and actively campaigns for free period products for all girls and women across the region.
Katrina McDonnell, Founder of Homeless Period Belfast, said:
“Since establishing The Homeless Period Belfast in 2016, we’ve distributed thousands of period care packs to those in need of period wear. We support a wide range of people in need, from rough sleepers and the homeless, to people who depend on foodbanks, refugees and asylum seekers to teenagers living in poverty and community youth groups.
Period poverty is a very real issue for many across Northern Ireland. Last year, we experienced three times the usual demand for our period packs and this is only increasing. No one should have to experience a period without a supply of suitable period products. It’s important that we continue to shine a light on the issue and encourage conversations around it to break the taboo that surrounds menstruation.
I’m thrilled to see Lidl Northern Ireland leading the way in tackling this issue head on. It’s really encouraging to see a major business like Lidl recognise the role they can play in helping eradicate period poverty and to take action to support disadvantaged people in the long-term. I hope that today’s announcement paves the way for other retailers to follow suit and join the fight to end period poverty in Northern Ireland.”
The announcement comes after Lidl Ireland successfully rolled out the scheme in the Republic of Ireland earlier this year which has seen more than 20,000 sign ups to avail of the coupon, and follows the launch of the Lidl Plus app in Northern Ireland in May.
Conor Boyle, Regional Director of Lidl Northern Ireland, said;
“I am very proud to announce the launch of a brand-new initiative by Lidl Northern Ireland to provide free period products to shoppers in need and charity service users right across the region. In working with Homeless Period Belfast and the Simon Community Northern Ireland, it’s been sobering to learn the full extent of period poverty within Northern Ireland and to understand the level of support required to those in need.
Access to safe, effective and hygienic period products is a basic right for those who menstruate and it’s shocking to hear that many are having to rely on local charities or less than suitable alternative materials to provide this. As a family retailer very much embedded in our local communities, we know we have a critical role to play in helping tackle this issue.
I’m delighted that Lidl Northern Ireland is the first supermarket to introduce such a scheme and to further support our communities by opening up access to essential period products for all of our customers. In working with the Simon Community Northern Ireland, we’re also continuing to provide monthly donations to ensure those harder to reach groups are also supported.”
Brian Shanks from the Simon Community Northern Ireland said:
“Today’s announcement by Lidl Northern Ireland to provide regular access to free period products is hugely significant and a real step forward in the fight to end period poverty here. Access to sanitary products can be particularly challenging for people experiencing homelessness and Lidl Northern Ireland’s continued, regular donations to our services will improve our supply of these essential items. For those in need, this new initiative means greater access to sanitary products when they need them and I commend Lidl Northern Ireland for taking the lead in tackling this issue head on.”
Shoppers can redeem free period products from their local Lidl Northern Ireland store by signing up to receive a free monthly coupon through the Lidl Plus app from this week.
Launch of £5million ‘Healthy Happy Minds’ pilot for primary schools
Education Minister Michelle McIlveen has announced the start of the Healthy Happy Minds pilot to support therapeutic & counselling services in primary schools.
The pilot service will include all primary schools, special schools with a primary cohort and primary EOTAS provision and will run until the end of March 2022.
Speaking at the launch event in Brooklands Primary School, Michelle McIlveen said: “I welcome today’s launch of the Healthy Happy Minds £5million therapeutic & counselling service. Crucially it will allow pupils in all primary schools to participate in therapeutic & counselling services until the end of March 2022.
“The Healthy Happy Minds pilot is one of a range of measures supporting the implementation of the ‘Children and Young People’s Emotional Health and Wellbeing in Education Framework’, providing support to primary school pupils with an aim to prevent and reduce mental health issues.
“When we consider that 50% of mental health problems are established by the age of 14, the importance of promoting emotional health and wellbeing at the earliest stage is clear.”
Schools will receive allocations directly, 50% immediately and 50% in January 2022, to secure appropriate support for their children.
The Minister continued: “Alongside counselling, the Healthy Happy Minds pilot provides opportunity for a broad range of therapeutic interventions to be tested at primary school level including play, drama, music, art and equine assisted therapy & learning.
“Transitional arrangements will also operate beyond the end of March 2022 to ensure that no child engaging with counselling/therapeutic services is left unsupported.”
The Healthy Happy Minds pilot will be subject to an independent evaluation to determine the appropriateness of these interventions for primary schools going forward.
Nursing and Midwifery ‘Leaders of the Future’
Health Minister Robin Swann has said nurses and midwives have a massive opportunity to influence and contribute to the successful Transformation of Health and Social Care Services.
He was speaking at a presentation ceremony for 30 young nurses and midwives graduating from Northern Ireland’s Nightingale Challenge Global Leadership Development Programme (GLDP).
The GLDP is a bespoke leadership programme commissioned by Chief Nursing Officer, Professor Charlotte McArdle.
It was developed for 30 Northern Ireland nurses and midwives, across all Trusts, under the age of 35 who have a passionate interest in improving health locally and globally.
Congratulating graduates of the programme, the Minister said: “I know that the programme has helped to develop your global leadership and partnership working skills. It’s fantastic to hear that you have all grasped the opportunity to develop yourselves as senior and strategic leaders of the future.
“The transformation of our health and social care services is essential if we are to provide a modern and fit for purpose model of delivering health and social care. Nurses and midwives are one the largest work force in delivering care and accordingly I believe that they have a massive opportunity to both influence and contribute to the success of the Transformation Agenda.”
The Minister also took the opportunity to praise the outstanding contribution of nurses and midwives in the course of the Covid pandemic.
“This programme is of special significance to me. Back in January 2020, my first action as Health Minister was to officially launch the programme as part of Northern Ireland’s celebration of the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife.
“The participants were some of the first Health and Social Care staff that I was introduced to in my role. Whilst we were all aware at that time that they would face significant challenges none of us could have predicted just how vast those challenges would be.”
The Minister continued: “Since then I have been privileged to witness first-hand just how hard our nursing and midwifery professionals, and their teams, are working. You have adapted and overcome, whilst continuing to provide the best treatment, care and support possible, often in very complex clinical situations and changing circumstances.
“In presenting these medals to acknowledge your completion of the programme I can only once again thank you and all your colleagues across the health service family for your continued professionalism, and dedication.”
Chief Nursing Officer, Professor Charlotte McArdle, also took the opportunity to congratulate graduates on their achievements: “The purpose of the programme was to empower and develop you as the next generation of nurses and midwives, to learn as leaders, practitioners and advocates in health, and in turn allow you to play your part in strengthening nursing and midwifery in Northern Ireland by leading transformational change. You have all achieved this and more.”
Professor McArdle acknowledged that there is a still a significant challenge to rebuild the health service following Covid-19, but shared: “I have great comfort in knowing that the future of nursing and midwifery is in safe and capable hands.”