Of all the cuts being made over the next few months, perhaps one of the least noted ones is that of Education Maintenance Allowance, or EMA. The government said they were going to ‘replace’ it – but in reality the whole of its budget is being scrapped, with practically nothing left to support students from poorer backgrounds.
An NUS survey in 2008 found that over two thirds of those receiving the £30 in EMA a week could not carry on in further education without it, meaning when it is cancelled, a huge number of working class young people will be effectively denied the opportunity to go to college and prepare them for what they want to do. Another policy, then, that prevents the poor from succeeding and instead condemns many to a job-path they do not want to take.
Thousands of students have been speaking out against the scrapping of EMA. James Mills recently started the Save EMA campaign, which I strongly recommend supporting. 16-19 year olds have been saying how the removal of the scheme will affect them – one said ‘“I need EMA my mum is on benefits and I am a full-time student at college without EMA I can’t go to college I will have to drop out and I don’t want to do that”.
With job opportunities limited, and less than a fifth of employers willing to hire people straight from school, it is vital that teenagers from poor households do not fall into unemployment and can go to college. Since one in 10 university graduates from 2009 are still unemployed a year on, think about how much higher this figure is for those unable to go even just to college or sixth form after school.
Alongside the abolition of EMA, another revelations last week is that 24 universities will see their entire teaching grants scrapped. Gone. 73 universities are having their grants cut by more than three quarters. This is devastating news for students who will be paying up to £9k a year to receive a significantly lower standard of education, when already contact time is minimal as lecturers focus more on research.
Bridget Phillipson is a Labour MP who received EMA and is supporting the Save EMA campaign. There are politicians willing to stand up in parliament for students. But our main platform will be the streets, social networks, and the media. Through these we can explain that youth unemployment is not conducive to economic recovery. Training our young people on the other hand, is.
Sign the petition here at Save EMA.