Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Why I don't support EMA

Cutting the education maintenance allowance (EMA) affects 16 to 19 year-olds who come from poorer backgrounds and choose to stay in education. The argument for giving the students up to £30 per week is that the country will gain by raising levels of education, the individual gains an education and we save money on benefits while the youngsters look for work. There is also a case to say that part-time work is avoided and gives the student longer to study.

The case against EMA is that it is not targeted correctly, most teenagers would still stay in full-time education anyway and it is an area for Government saving which is so badly needed. It may be that the argument for part-time work is a red herring as those in receipt of EMA may be much more likely to also have a job.

I happened to be in Lancaster when the students were protesting for the first time. I spoke with a local headmaster who was observing the protest but had given his pupils the option of protesting at the school gates in their lunchtime. The pupils preferred to take time off lessons. Let the students demonstrate as much as they like, but they should do it in their own time. Their attitude hardly showed a positive concern for their education. The national news also showed how demonstrators may have ulterior motives.

However my main argument against EMA is the way it is delivered. There are poor families who need help but the financial assistance is given to the pupil. This means that the money is more likely to find its way to visits to the cinema or hairdresser or the pub. If the money is given to parents then I would suggest that it is much more likely to find its way to the bookshop or pay for bus tickets. My biggest concern is that inadequate parents (inadequate only in the financial sense) find they are more inadequate and the only person in the household with any spare cash may be the teenager. I find this a scenario which is unlikely to ease family tension. Poor families should be supported but I don't think EMA is the best way forward.

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1 comment:

  1. EMA? OK if the recipient takes it in the same spirit as it is offered