A Schools’ Hygiene Initiative has been launched by Downpatrick, Rowallane and Slieve Croob DEA’s, in partnership with the South Eastern Trust Social Work Multi-Disciplinary Team and Lecale Learning. The initiative has been supported by the Russell Gaelic Union GAC and local businesses Wrap and Roll, AJC Electrical, Plus 2 Print and Eurospar stores in Newcastle and Crossgar.
The Schools’ Hygiene Initiative aims to help combat hygiene poverty locally by providing all pupils in Year 8, within Ballynahinch, Castlewellan, Crossgar, Downpatrick, Newcastle and Saintfield schools with a hygiene gift bag. The gift bag contains a variety of hygiene products and an Information Leaflet. The Information Leaflet, which is produced in a range of languages, provides useful contact details for the essential services that can offer families help and support within the local area. In addition, there are details on local Foodbanks which can supply hygiene products, that are kindly donated by members of the public from participating local chemists.
Hygiene poverty is an inability to afford to purchase essential personal care products such as deodorant, shampoo, soap, and cleaning products. The reality of low-income families is that options are restricted, leaving many having to choose between being able to heat their homes, pay their rent, feed their families, or purchase personal care products. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, Food Banks in Downpatrick, Newcastle, Crossgar and Ballynahinch have reported a significant rise in requests for hygiene products as part of their weekly food parcel deliveries.
Following the success of the Hygiene Initiativedeveloped in the Newcastle and Castlewellan area, it was recognised that there was a need to develop the Schools’ Hygiene Initiative, to create awareness locally to the challenges faced by many families in covering the cost of purchasing hygiene products. Educating pupils on the help and support services that are available locally is of benefit, since one of the main effects of Hygiene Poverty in schools is poor self-esteem among pupils. Children begin to lose interest in their education, their friendships suffer, and they become reluctant to attend school.
Newry, Mourne and Down District Council Chairperson, Councillor Cathy Mason said, “Launching the Schools’ Hygiene Initiative is really important as we know household budgets are being stretched, due to the increased cost of living and this initiative offers support to those families that are struggling financially.”
Cllr. Mason continued, “The leaflet enclosed in the hygiene gift bag provides useful contact numbers of agencies that can offer additional support to families, as well as detailing how families can donate hygiene products locally to those in need. I welcome this excellent initiative and congratulate those involved for their foresight and innovation.”