The Learning and Skills Council (LSC), the body responsible for allocating the Further Education budget, has announced the extension of the newest funding support mechanism for young people to help more to remain in education.
The Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA), which has replaced the Minimum Training Allowance (MTA), has previously been available only to young people in FE. It has now been extended to incorporate young people starting an LSC – supported Entry to Employment (E2E) programme or a course which leads to an Apprenticeship, offering some 65,000 more young people the opportunity to remain in education and training thus improving their lives and skills levels, without as many financial constraints.
The EMA and Benefits
One of the areas that has caused some consternation in the past is the failure of the various financial support services to work in harmony, with one benefits package being superseded by another if claimed. The EMA, however, does not affect other benefit payments and is designed to assist low income families to be awarded a further £90 per week. The MTA only offers £40 per week. Furthermore, Income Support may be offered to those who are separated from their families through necessity, resulting in a combined package of £74.50. In addition, the EMA already offers young people this support whilst allowing them to engage in part time employment.
The EMA is claimed to be a “something for something” scheme, with the young people signing a contract that guarantees the payment in return for the fulfilment of the training obligation. There are further bonus payments for the successful completion of the course and for a high attendance rate. To be eligible, the household income must be below £30,000 per year. To date, more than 400,000 young people have benefited from the scheme.
Making a Difference
Responding to the announcement, Trevor Fellowes, the Director of Learner Support for the LSC, stated: “EMA is making a real difference to young people across the country. The financial support EMA provides removes a barrier to learning that some young people face enabling them to continue with their education and improve their skills and job prospects. The EMA pilots demonstrated the positive effect it had on participation and achievement.
“The total national impact on participation was predicted to be around 4 % and we are well on course to meet that target,” he continued. “With around £315 million of Government funding invested in the scheme in the 2004/05 academic year, and this figure set to rise in the coming year, we are confident that the extension will have a very positive impact and create real opportunities for many more young people.”
Richard Williams, Chief Executive of Rathbone ““ one of the largest providers of training in the tertiary education sector, focusing on young people confronted with personal learning barriers – said: “Rathbone is very pleased to see EMA being made available to some of the young people with whom we work, such as learners on LSC-funded E2E schemes. We provide learning opportunities for many young people. As EMA is paid in addition to benefits, it will be particularly helpful to learners from lower income families. EMA payments will support many Rathbone learners in being able to reach their full potential”.
Helping more people to gain qualifications is a laudable goal and will hopefully result in a higher skilled workforce. The EMA aims to help more young people staying on in training through removing the choice between the short term costs versus the long term benefits. However, questions remain as to the future of this project; as more young people remain in education and training, the cost of the EMA is bound to increase, falling at a time when the economic picture is no longer as healthy as three years ago.
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