PKAVS is an innovative Perth based charity doing big things for their local community. The charity work throughout Perth and Kinross to improve wellbeing, connect communities, and help people to realise their potential. Like many charities, PKAVS had to find new ways to provide support as community needs changed during lockdown. The Tampon Taxi was one such initiative – simple but highly effective, PKAVS recruited volunteers and staff to distribute free period products to people across the region.
Jenni Keenan BEM, PKAVS Empowering Communities Team Manager said: “The Tampon Taxi was in response to a need we recognised right at the start of lockdown in March 2020. We had already been distributing free products at our premises since before lockdown, and became aware of the need to provide an alternative for pupils when the school closures were announced. We set up a free ‘pick and mix’ stall at PKAVS head office, and people from all across the community came to pick up products. This is when we realised the need was far wider than first anticipated. So we came up with the idea of launching a Tampon Taxi service, where free period products are made available to anyone who needs them. We recruited PKAVS staff to deliver the products, set up a product storage facility – which started in my living room – worked with product manufacturers, and before we knew it, we had delivered to over 500 households locally.”
Today, the initiative distributes free period products via a discreet home delivery service, a subscription service where products are delivered monthly and a ‘give or take box,’ where people are free to donate or pick up products. One of the users recently commented: “It’s discreet and I love the fact you put a little chocolate treat in the bags!” Another said: “Convenient, doorstep delivery. Keeps me stocked up, never being caught out again without the products.”
The scheme has also given people access to a wide range of products at a time when supply has been limited. Early lockdown prompted a panic buying spree, with many local stores and supermarkets struggling to meet demand. Families from lower income families were particularly hard hit, as supplies dwindled and prices went up.
Jenni continued: “The great thing about the service, is we give people choice at a time when choice is limited. This has been particularly beneficial to lower income families, because by working with our suppliers, we have been able to provide access to some of the more expensive items, giving women choice and dignity. The reusable period products have been particularly popular – not only better for the environment, they help families save money over the long term.” One of the service users commented: “We wouldn’t normally be able to afford reusable pads and pants, but now we use them regularly instead of buying sanitary pads.”
The home delivery service has also been critical for people who have become isolated during the pandemic, either due to shielding or the restrictions of lockdown. The service is hugely well received among older members of the community and those with health issues or disabilities. In fact, the Tampon Taxi has become so successful, that other local authorities have started their own sanitary delivery services, with projects starting up in Dundee, Aberdeen and Glasgow.
The drive to the provision of free period products has in part been fuelled by the Scottish Government’s recently passed ‘free product provision bill.’ The bill aims to make it a legal requirement for educational institutes, including schools, colleges and universities, to provide sanitary products at no expense.
Jenni said: “We have been overwhelmed at how much demand there has been for the service. Back in March, we started off taking 4-5 orders a week which grew to 60 a week by Christmas. We now have over 80 subscribers and deliver to more than 500 households, and this will only grow as more people hear about us. It is fantastic to be providing a much needed service in the community, which is improving the lives of so many people.”