PLANS to scrap weekly allowances for young people in education could leave poorer Erith & Thamesmead teens on the scrap heap.
The government’s proposal to end the education maintenance allowance – which hands struggling 16 to 18-year-olds in college or sixth form up to £30 a week – will affect South East London youths disproportionately.
In Erith and Thamesmead constituency 43% of students at Bexley College and 38% of students at Greenwich Community College receive EMA with the vast majority at the higher £30 rate.
Lisa Nandy MP for Wigan and I have decided to campaign together on this issue and have written to the Minister. A copy of the text of the letter is below.
RE: Proposed abolition of EMAs.
We write in relation to your decision to axe the Educational Maintenance Allowance and to express our concerns regarding the many thousands of young people this will affect in our constituencies. In one Wigan College, for example, over half of its students are currently in receipt of the top rate of the allowance. Similarly, in the Erith and Thamesmead constituency 43% of students at Bexley College and 38% of students at Greenwich Community College receive EMA with the vast majority at the higher £30 rate.
EMA has helped children into Further Education and beyond across the country – from Wigan to Erith and Thamesmead and the decision to scrap it will affect poor students across the country from northern pit villages to London estates. After speaking to local students and teachers and hearing of the impact that it has had on their day-to-day lives we wish to state emphatically that we are opposed to cutting EMA. Our views are supported by the National Union of Students and the University and Colleges Union, as well as many other campaigning groups around the country.
However, as the debate continues we wish to seek urgent clarification that students currently undertaking their courses at schools and further education colleges will receive their EMA for the period up to the end of their course. In a recent Parliamentary Question, you clearly stated that there would be £174 million set aside for EMA in the next school year, yet on the Direct.Gov website it now states that all students will have their money withdrawn at the end of this year (http://www.direct.gov.uk/en/EducationAndLearning/14To19/MoneyToLearn/EMA/index.htm. These students began their courses in good faith and could not have foreseen that the funding they have been promised would be withdrawn at a later stage. We therefore ask that students who undertook their courses on this understanding continue to receive EMA until the end of their course. We would also like to know why this information appears to have been placed on the direct.gov website before it was given to Parliament.
Not only does EMA provide valuable support for students who would otherwise be unable to gain qualifications past GCSE level, there are other benefits to be taken into consideration, not least the impact on the local economy. Based on the 2008/09 statistics, EMA recipients of only two colleges in Wigan provide almost £75,000 per week and two colleges in Erith and Thamesmead nearly £28,000 per week in additional revenue to local businesses and service providers.
We hope that you have fully considered the impact of abolishing EMA but in the meantime look forward to receiving your assurance that students currently in receipt of the allowance will not be penalised.