The EMA (Education Maintenance Allowance) was introduced in 2004 to provide financial assistance to 16 – 19 year olds from low income families.
It was viewed as a means of preventing young people from becoming NEET (Not in Education Employment & Training) and at that time 35,000 young people fell into this category.
It is a means-tested allowance paid fortnightly during term time to help cover educational equipment/trips/travel/expenses for the student.
A free bus pass strictly for travel to and from the college has also been available for students, also on a means-tested basis. The success rate of the EMA is that it has enabled more young people to gain higher qualifications; it has increased the numbers going to university and improved their chances in gaining employment.
The EMA also allows students time to study and takes the pressure off of needing to get a job and working long hours.
However, at a time when there is a lack of secure employment and with the raising of the school leaving age to 18 the coalition government decides to stop the EMA. So far no alternative arrangements have been put in place and rather astonishingly our MP Amber Rudd (from recent correspondence) does not seem to know what support (if any) will be available for students from low income families, in this area, as from September (2011) if parents cannot afford to keep their children in further education and with the uncertainty of the job market this will create more pressure on the economy.
What is of course needed is courage and strong leadership to confront this disastrous economical mess where rich bankers are allowed to receive fat bonuses from our taxes on the back of those losing their jobs.
The major priority of a good leader is to ensure that those marginalised/on low incomes do not suffer disproportionally from the cuts.
So Amber Rudd please challenge your government to provide credible financial assistance to the growing numbers of students who will be in need of this support from September.