Education maintenance allowance payments to rise to £40 per week in Wales
Young people in Wales will see an increase in education maintenance allowance payments from this month, the Welsh Government has announced.
The payment, known as EMA, will increase from £30 per week to £40 for eligible further education students in sixth form or college.
EMA is a weekly grant designed to support young people between the aged of 16 and 18 from low-income households with further education costs, such as meals or transport.
Jeremey Miles, the minister for education and Welsh language, said the increase would be a commitment for the next two academic years while a comprehensive review into EMA is conducted.
Around 16,000 students in Wales currently receive the grant, which is paid every two weeks.
Mr Miles said: “In Wales we have continued to protect the education maintenance allowance, with the increased payment helping with the reality of the cost of learning for students.
“We appreciate that the rate of EMA has not increased for some time, and during the current cost of living crisis, we understand young people are also feeling the financial strain.
“While we work to undertake an independent review of EMA, this raise will provide additional help to remove barriers to learning.”
Mr Miles also announced funding to allow free appeals for economically disadvantaged learners taking general and vocational exams this summer.
Students are eligible for EMA if their household income is £20,817 or less and they are the only young person in the household.
The threshold increases to £23,077 if there is more than one young person in the household.
Orla Tarn, president of the National Union of Students (NUS) Wales, described the increase in the payment as “long-awaited”.
“EMA is vital in supporting young people from low-income families with the cost of further education, however, in the context of spiralling cost of living, it was clear an increase was needed to stop young learners from being priced out of education,” she said.
“There is still lots of work to do to address the cost-of-learning crisis.
“Students across Wales are facing a perfect storm of rising rent, bloated bills, massive increases in food prices, and transport costs which are forcing learners to choose between attending classes and paying for food.”
Plaid Cymru’s Luke Fletcher welcomed the increase to £40 but said a larger uplift is needed to help students cope with the impact of rising prices.
Mr Fletcher said students were using the payment – which is designed to help learners from lower income backgrounds with their education – to cover basic costs due to the cost-of-living crisis.
“Countless conversations I’ve had with young people in receipt of EMA made it clear that the current payment wasn’t coming close to covering basic costs,” he said.
“Many were resorting to using EMA not for its stated purpose of enhancing their educational experience, but for helping their families through this artificially imposed cost of living crisis.
“EMA should be at around £54 per week today, a £24 uplift from the £30 learners currently receive. This means that successive Welsh governments have cut the real-terms value of EMA by a third over the last 15 or so years.
“Having been in receipt of the EMA myself, I know just how much of a huge difference this increase will make to so many students.
The increase will take place from this month.
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