From education to employment

Concern over lack of EMA replacement

The National Union of Students (NUS) has expressed concern at a reduction in the provision for the replacement of EMA – after a warning from the Association of Colleges (AoC).

According to the AoC, the Department for Education (DfE) has provided £65 million less than the £180m originally promised in 2011.

The EMA fund, which in 2010 was set at £575 million, was originally cut by more than two-thirds to £180m for the new bursary allocation scheme – it has since been reduced to £115m.
NUS, which represents the interests of more than seven million HE and FE students – has criticised the cuts.

Liam Burns, NUS President, said: “Further cutting suport for the poorest college students, at a time when job and study opportunities are few and far between, is a massive mistake.

“Many in the Government claim EMA was simply an unnecessary incentive. It was nothing of the sort. Many of the poorest students rely on small regular payments to cover costs like travel, food and books that allow them to stay in education and improve their life chances. EMA represented a lifeline for the poorest students.”

The NUS reaction follows the AoC concern at being contacted by college principals and the Young People’s Learning Agency (YPLA) about the cuts.

Julian Gravatt, AoC assistant chief executive, said: “We’ve had a number of calls from college principals and managers who are concerned that they won’t have enough money to meet the needs of their students who are going to be enrolling this summer.

“Many colleges tell us that they will not have enough money to make guaranteed mayments to young people on free school meals. We have raised this with DfE and YPLA officials but we are also confident that colleges will do their utmost to make sure that funding reaches those students most in need.”

The reduction in the provision could see some colleges unable to cover guaranteed payments for the poorest of students.

Mr Burns concluded: “The removal of EMA is one of the most short-sighted policy mistakes this government has made and an even greater reduction to this year’s budget will see colleges struggle to provide support for those students most in need.”

In addition to the bursary reduction announcement, an AoC study has warned that a quarter of a million adult learners are at risk of being priced out of education.

From September, the government will only pay fees for those receiving ‘active benefits’, which includes those receiving jobseekers allowance and employment support allowance.

Adults receiving ‘inactive’ benefits, such as income support, working families tax credits and housing benefits, will now have to pay course fees.

Joy Mercer, AoC director of education policy, said: “These will be adults who want to improve their job prospects, increase their income (and therefore reduce their dependence on benefits) and give a better quality of life to their families.

“Research shows that people change jobs 14 times in their careers, and so retraining adults is generally a wise investment.”

Mark Astley

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