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Education Maintenance Allowance

Volume 570: debated on Monday 11 November 2013

1. What estimate he has made of savings to the public purse arising from the abolition of the education maintenance allowance. (900983)

By replacing the education maintenance allowance with the 16-to-19 bursary fund, we are saving £380 million every year and targeting help more sharply at the young people who need it most.

My local further education provider, West Cheshire college, is proving very effective at ensuring that the bursary fund helps those young people who most need it. What is my hon. Friend the Minister doing to ensure that the bursary fund is targeted at those most in need?

My hon. Friend’s local FE college is not only very good; it is also the FE college I went to. I am glad to say that the 16-to-19 bursary fund allows colleges to target support at those who need it most. The most vulnerable receive a bursary of up to £1,200, which is far more than they could have received from EMA.

The Merseyside Colleges Association told Merseyside MPs just this week that the bursary fund is nowhere near enough to deal with the need that it finds for food, travel, or books. Will the Minister seriously reconsider? It is not just the very poorest students who are missing out, but those just above them; colleges do not have the money to cover them.

It was found that the education maintenance allowance was paid to 10 times more people than needed it to access further education. It is interesting that the hon. Gentleman mentions food, because the Government are introducing free school meals for those who need them in FE colleges—something the Opposition never did.

Is the Minister aware that some people who attend college in Chester do get EMA? Those of my constituents who are from Wales get it, because the Labour Government in Wales provide it to all pupils. Will he accept that that EMA provision means that people stay on at school for longer, and improves their ability to learn at school?

No, because the 16-to-19 bursary fund is better targeted. It is typical of Opposition’s proposals that the shadow Secretary of State’s proposal to bring back EMA came with a measure to pay for it that would have raised just over £100 million, leaving yet another black hole.