Young people at Lambeth College were given an opportunity to have their say over the Government’s plan to abolish the Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA). They were joined at the Clapham Centre for an early morning breakfast event by Andy Burnham MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Education, Gordon Marsden MP, Shadow Minister for Further Education and Skills and Chuka Umunna MP (for Streatham).
The three MPs came to the College on a fact-finding mission to learn more about how the planned scrapping of the EMA is going to affect young people studying at further education (FE) level.
Launched in 2004, the EMA is a means-tested benefit paid to teenagers aged between 16 and 19 who stay on at school or attend college beyond the age of 16. It is worth up to £30 a week, is paid direct into the students’ bank accounts and was designed to increase participation in education beyond school leaving age.
The MPs spoke to a group of student EMA recipients and key members of staff about the potential problems students may encounter without the financial support offered by EMA.
Lambeth College Principal Richard Chambers said: “We welcome the MPs who have visited our students today. We all accept that these are difficult times financially but we believe that young people continuing and completing their education and training is crucial to the UK’s recovery and a sustainable future for us all.”
Following the visit, and peaceful protests by 60,000 young people and teachers on Monday, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary Andy Burnham MP hosted a seminar in Parliament to give those most affected the chance to discuss the Government’s decision to scrap the EMA with Members of Parliament.
The Government’s arguments for scrapping EMA have been completely discredited, with the Institute for Fiscal Studies saying that its costs are ‘more than recouped’. Over 600,000 young people receive EMA and around 90,000 of these would not be able to study without it. For the rest, EMA makes it more likely that they will complete their course and achieve their goals.
With a lifetime cost to the economy of over £50,000 for every young person not in education, employment or training (NEET), EMA represents good value for money.
Andy Burnham said,
“EMA is a lifeline for young people, sending them the message that success is possible, whatever their background. Alongside the rise in tuition fees, this is a double betrayal from a Government that promised to keep EMA before the election. The IFS have confirmed that EMA is a bargain – an investment that we see returned over a lifetime. But instead of investing in our young people to help them get on in life, the Government has chosen to kick away the ladder.”