EMA to be Scrapped

November 06, 2010

Education maintenance allowance (EMA) will be scrapped in order to fund the compulsory education and training of all under-19s.

EMAs were a means-tested allowance of between £10 and £30, paid to 16- to 19-year-olds who stay on in education and whose household income had to be less than £30,810 per year. Those receiving the maximum £30 payment make up 80% of all recipients, with their household income is below £20,817 per year.

A replacement programme of targeted support for those most in need is likely to have a budget just a fraction of the size of EMA, as the Government seeks to save £500 million of the total £574 million budget.

George Osborne, the chancellor, told the House of Commons: “We will fund an increase in places for 16 to 19-year-olds, and raise the participation age to 18 by the end of the Parliament.”

The Department for Education justified the decision by saying that evaluations of the allowance showed that 90 per cent of the money was “dead weight”, going to students who would have attended anyway. However a survey carried out by the NUS in 2008 found 65% of participants on the £30 rate stated that they could not continue to study without EMA.

The Institute for Fiscal Studies report said EMA was a significant factor in improving staying-on rates in education, particularly for boys and for the poorest students. It said it had boosted participation by around six percentage points. Colleges are particularly concerned about EMAs because they teach 69 per cent of students receiving support.

Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, said: “We are appalled to learn that education maintenance allowances are at risk. The simple message here seems to be: ‘Don’t be poor’.”