Government not considering sanitary pad funding despite girls being kept home from school as parents can't afford products

Health Minister Jonathan Coleman says making sanitary products cheaper in New Zealand "is not something that's being looked at."

Despite the problems being faced by some New Zealanders, lowering the price on tampons and pads isn't on the government's radar. Source: Seven Sharp

Seven Sharp has been following the problem of young women not being able to afford things like pads and tampons since March, when a young mother told the programme she'd had to resort to using things like tea towels and newspaper at 'that time of the month'.

Darryl Evans, from the Mangere Budgeting Service in Auckland, says as the cost of living rises across the country, families are having to prioritise food over sanitary items.

He says in the last three to fourth months he's become aware of at least 10 families who have kept their daughters home from school, because they couldn't afford sanitary products.

"I'm certainly aware of a family we've been working with where there's a girl who's 16 years of age, at least one week of every four, she stays home because the family cannot afford them.

"The mum is a solo mum, she's working fulltime, but the reality is when the rent is taking up 65 percent of the income...our young people simply don't have access to them because their parents don't earn enough. I think that's a national disgrace."

Taylor, 15, says she's had to stay home from school in the past to avoid a public accident.

"I didn't have the things I needed, mum didn't get paid till the next day so mum kept me home."

She says 'emergency supplies' are available at her school, but they only give away enough to get students through the day, and that students must get them from the school reception and sign their name on a list, instead of getting them confidentially through the school nurse.

"It was my time of the month, I went to the office and there were three of the main kids who like to tease people a lot, I was so nervous I didn't wanna say anything coz the boys were there, they were listening in, I could tell coz they were leaning forward, it was so embarrassing."

Women's Minister Louise Upston and Revenue Minister Michael Woodhouse have already dismissed the idea of dropping GST on the products. 

The UK, Canada, and several states in the US have got rid of tax on the products or are in the process of doing so.

When asked if things like pads and tampons should be funded through Pharmac or the national health budget, Health Minister Jonathan Coleman said "we'll have to see what the demand for that is."

His office later told Seven Sharp that the Minister hadn't received any advice on the issue, and that it isn't something that's being looked at.

Pharmac says it would consider funding sanitary products if there was an application.