EMA (Education Maintenance Allowance)

Students who stay on at school between the ages of 16-18 are entitled to up to £30 a week cash. Check out the official website (it must have cost a few quid to put it together and you paid for it so it’s only fair you have a look and see where your money went). Here are some choice quotes from the home page:

“EMA is worth up to £30 a week, and it’s paid straight into your bank account!”

“Basically, EMA is cash in your hands”

So that’s it in a nutshell. Assuming you attend school or college and your parents earn under the threshold (£20k for the maximum, under £30k to get between £10 and £20 a week) then you get the dosh. Simple. So surely this is a good thing?

The Pros

We all recognise the benefit of a good education, and encouraging the young to stay on and do well in school or college has got to be a good thing. The temptation to drop out at 16 and slide into the social dependency culture is large for many and so anything that offers an incentive to stay on in school should be encouraged. In addition any extra income earnt by the person claiming does not count as part of their “household income” so this is not a disincentive to take on additional part time work. Also let’s be honest and admit that right now the employment prospects for the average 16 year old are far from rosy so keeping them in education for 2 more years is no bad thing, especially if it also equips them further for the day that they have to enter the harsh world of the underemployed.

The Cons

£30 cash to your average teenager is a reasonable amount of dosh. So what are they likely to do with it? Pay their parents for their board and lodging? Buy extra books for further study? Put it into a government approved tax efficient savings scheme? Or blow the lot on a bender on a Friday and Saturday night? Well we were all 16 once and I sure as heck know what my first choice would have been. Paying the money as cash direct to the recipient also creates divisions and pressure among peer groups with friends suddenly finding each other unable to do the same things if one is claiming and one is unable to – unless of course their parents are willing to stump up the £1500 or so net amount they would need to finance this themselves.

So what’s the conclusion?

It’s a very good thing to incentivise youths to stay on in education. £10-£30 a week is probably about the right amount. Some would say why not pay them in a lump sum at the end of each term (bankers bonus anyone?) but chances are the bender might be even bigger and more dangerous then, so a weekly drip feed probably makes sense. Certainly for anyone living on their own the money should be paid direct to them, but surely for anyone living with parents who have household bills to pay, it makes sense for a portion to be directed to them. This would also incentivise the parents to make sure their offspring stay in school and do well so the money keeps flowing. Maybe a 50/50 split between the student and their parents?

Who knows. No doubt this may become a victim of the current round of consensus cuts. For once I hope not – as I truly believe it has, with a few tweaks, all the hallmarks of a sensible use of public money.

We shall see….


About lakedistrictviews

Trying to earn a honest living in the beautiful English Lake District
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