Last month the government announced that they would scrap the Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA) as the new coalition government tries to save and recover money from the faltering economy. EMA was introduced in 2004 as financial support for families who were on low income. If parents of 16-18 year olds earned less than £30,800 they would be eligible to receive a weekly EMA payment of £10 to £30, an additional £30 – £50 was also awarded if students arrived on time for a whole term as an incentive to stay in education.
When EMA was introduced it provided a lifeline for students who needed to find money to fund transport as many who choose to go to college have to travel a fair distance to study the course they desire. As many families were under financial hardship EMA meant that 16 – 18 year olds no longer needed pocket money from their parents and could get the basics for school such as transport, books, food and other educational expenses. Money is the biggest issue when it comes to staying in education as many cannot find or fit in a part time job as well as studying full time.
The government is still adamant that they plan to stop EMA for good with applications being suspended and no longer accepted. As much as 70% of students will not be able to continue studying as a result of this because the cost of transport and educational material such as textbooks cost too much, as the recession continues to bite the chances of getting a part time job is also bleak.
Of course like everything there are also many who have abused EMA and turn up just so they can receive the money to spend on themselves, this is unfair to those who want to learn as they cause disruption to lessons and those who want to learn are affected. EMA benefits many working families and with it now being scrapped the government should be braced with an influx of teenagers who will just go on to claim job seekers allowance.
EMA should be stricter as I have seen so many families who earn above the £30,800 thresh hold still able to claim the maximum £30 a week for their children. If you have the means to pay for transport and other expenses then it should not be abused. It is unlikely that EMA will be resumed any time soon so I will be keeping an eye on what happens next and how many more students are going to be penalised for the minority who do not deserve or need EMA.