Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Replacing the Education Maintenance Allowance

One of the first tasks which the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister gave me when they appointed me to the job of Advocate for Access to Education was to advise on the replacement for the Educational Maintenance Allowance. Since then I have travelled across the country to listen to young adults in school and FE colleges about how they think students should be supported in education. In February I submitted my report to the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister with my recommendations.
Yesterday afternoon, I was in the chamber as Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Education, announced the government’s plans for the successor to the EMA.


Since the General Election Nick, Sarah Teather, and I, like many Liberal Democrats at every level, have been united in a belief that whatever the national financial position, people in genuine need of help should not be prevented by financial barriers from attending school, college or training.
Yesterday’s announcement is a welcome big step in the right direction

First, the government has recognised the need to continue to support people currently on EMA as they finish their studies. Therefore everybody who started their course this academic year and is on the £30 per week rate will continue to receive payments of £20 per week in their second year. All students on EMA who started their course in the 2009/10 academic year will continue to receive the full rate.

Second, an additional £15 million will be set aside to provide bursaries of £1,200 for the most vulnerable students, for example those in care, with severe disabilities or single parents living on their own. This is more than the maximum available to students currently on EMA.

Finally, schools, colleges and training providers will have £165 million each year put into a discretionary learner support fund which will be available for them to distribute to students facing financial need. This is the equivalent of just over £800 for every young person who received free school meals at the age of 15.
Across the country students face very different costs and barriers to attending school or college. In some places students have to travel a long distance to attend. On some courses the cost of equipment is prohibitively expensive.
This is why under the new plans schools and colleges will decide individually exactly how to distribute the money available to support their students in need to meet the costs of their transport, meals, books and equipment, and other course costs.

The coalition government was left with one of the most severe financial crises in our country’s history. Under these circumstances, it was simply unsustainable to continue to pay cash payments to about half of all students in further education. Yesterday’s announcement makes sure that funding is kept and in some cases increased for those in real need.

The government will now have a short consultation on its plans. I would encourage all Liberal Democrats with an interest in this area to respond to the consultation, which can be accessed through the Department for Education’s website.

Yours,

Simon Hughes MP
Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats

1 comment: