When the Tampon Tax fund was initially announced, George Osborne, the Chancellor at the time, said that the money would go to women’s health and support charities. We were really pleased, as we felt that at last there was recognition from the Government that money should be ring fenced for our sector.

Why not just abolish the tax?

Obviously, we don’t think women should have to pay VAT on items that are necessary, but this money has been collected for decades and the Government has - we estimate - collected over £700 million from women through this tax. So, we believe that whilst we support the end of this tax on women, the money that has been and continues to be raised should go to supporting the needs of the poorest and most marginalised women in society.

At this moment, up and down the country there are still some grants and contracts at local and regional levels being awarded for services specific to women, for example refuges. But more and more often they are not going to specialist organisations: they are going to housing associations and larger generic charities rather than the experts who started this work for women, at a time when nobody else was doing it or was interested in it. These organisations have the understanding and frameworks needed to support women, as has been shown over and over again in research throughout the years.

Women’s organisations are continuing to lose out locally and nationally, with a stream of bad decisions by policy makers, including that last year, just two of the ten grants available from the Tampon Tax fund went to dedicated women’s health and support charities. Therefore, when this year,  just one out of ten of the grants went to a women’s charity it was clear that something had to be done; we could no longer stay silent about the very clear dismantling of our women’s expert, specialist sector.

It was time to take action.

First, we wrote a letter that was signed by many women from the sector including lawyers, academics, and a whole range of others who were concerned about the distribution of the Tampon Tax fund, about how the Government was clearly breaking the promise made by George Osborne in 2015.

The response we received from the Government was, to say the least, disappointing. We were not even invited to have a meeting, which we had said we would welcome, and our concerns seemed to be falling on deaf ears.

We knew then that we needed a national campaign to show the Government that it is not just a handful of people who are being let down here, but the whole sector representing millions of women across the country. If the fund is to work with and for women, and had been promised to women’s charities, then why not just do that? It makes no sense.

Then the petition was launched.

WRC launched a ‘Pay back the Tampon Tax fund to women’s charities’ petition which has received attention from women and organisations across the UK. With that continuing to grow, the next step for us is to launch a crowdfund to produce a campaign pack, which women’s organisations can use to engage their local MPs and media in building support for the campaign.

Our plan is to work with women’s organisations across the country to build a loud enough voice that we will be heard by decision makers in Westminster. We will continue to work with Maya Oppenheim at the Independent, who has so far written two pieces about the campaign. We need to engage women’ organisations and other allies across the sector, but also grow wider public support for the cause.

So why WRC?

WRC is the only support organisation for the women’s sector as a whole. The Tampon Tax should go to supporting that sector: it isn’t about any one issue; it’s about keeping this vital provision of diverse local organisations that help women in their communities. They save the lives of women and children, and many are unheard outside of their communities, slipping under the radar of those making decisions about their future - they just get on with their vital work day to day. We need to support them and ensure they keep their doors open.

We have the biggest membership of any women’s organisation in the country, so we have the reach that will ensure smaller organisations get their voices heard and receive the support they need. We can engage a critical mass of women around the campaign.

We’re leaders in collaborative work in the women’s sector, so we are used to and committed to doing this - it’s a priority of ours to build collaboration and a collective voice with the sector. We understand that the women’s sector is not just one size fits all - there is a whole range of organisations working within different communities of women, and we support the existence of those organisations to be independent and able to represent some of the very specific needs of the communities of women they work with, including disabled, or black and minoritised women.

Support for WRC is support for all women’s charities and organisations. We’re ready to work with organisations across the country to hold the Government accountable to their promises.

Will you join us?

 Pay Back the Tampon Tax