Tuesday, 18 January 2011

EMA - Support our Students

As the students prepare for a day of action, a day ahead of the debate in Parliament on the ending of EMA I just wanted to pledge my support and share my views.

EMA is a payment made to 16-18 year olds, in full time education, where the household income is less than £30,800.The payment is between £30-£10 per week. Around 47% of all full time students receive it.

For many the payment makes the difference between going on to further education or not, and for many more it enables the household to support the student in books, equipment and travel expenses that would otherwise push an overstretched budget right over the edge - into debt or poverty.

Complaints are made that some EMAs are misspent on booze and cigarettes or get otherwise frittered away. Others argue that the students should get a job to help subsidise their career.

While I do not doubt that some money is wasted,  that is not a valid reason for abolition when for the vast majority the EMA provides a lifeline to enable the poorest in our society to access education - and isn't that what our society is aspiring to? Should they get a job? Well with increasing pressure to attain the highest A Level results to continue in higher education - how many hours can realistically be given to working now  without sacrificing grades for getting into a university of choice for the future.

Without the EMA the burden falls once again, disproportionately on the lowest income families and those already struggling with debt. These are households that will feel its loss the most. Households who are keen to ensure their young people get the best education they can, to increase their earning powe,r and lift them on to a higher standard of living.

At a time when education and qualifications have never been a more essential requirement of entry to work, is the government jeopardising young people's chance to gain the best education they can?

Wishing you well on your day of protest.


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