The Government has today made two key announcements on the future of the Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA), the payment of up to £30 per week paid to young people aged 16-18 to help them stay in education.
The cutting of EMA was one of the decisions that I vehemently disagreed with. I have seen just how valuable it is in encouraging young people in my area to stay in education. With poor access to FE courses, Launceston has to lowest level of post 16 education in Cornwall and taking away funding from poorer students would have dented this further.
The first announcement is that all those currently receiving the grant will continue to do so. That means that students half way through a course won't find themselves without vital support.
The second announcement is that there will be a replacement payment of up to £1200 per year for the poorest students. This is more than was available before (the £30 per week was for 39 academic weeks and came in at £1170 in total) but will only go to around 12,000 of the very poorest students.
According to the Independent, the total fund will be £180 million per year and would have been a lot lower if Lib Dem Leader Nick Clegg hadn't pushed for more. Set against this is the fact that the previous EMA scheme was £560 million per year and so there will be a lot fewer students who will receive anything. I understand the argument that many of the previous recipients didn't actually need the money, but I don't believe that this accounted for more than two thirds of the total.
This may not be the ideal situation, but it is clear that it would have been much worse if the Conservatives had their way and Labour themselves would have abolished the scheme in 2015.