Welsh Government to consider increasing £30 weekly student payment
The Welsh Government has supported a motion by Plaid MS’s to consider increasing Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) in line with inflation.
The motion proposed by Plaid Cymru Economy Spokesperson Luke Fletcher MS was debated and agreed in the Senedd on Tuesday.
The motion proposed by Mr Fletcher, regional Member of the Senedd for South Wales West, managed to gain the support of 37 Members, including Education Minister Jeremy Miles in the Chamber.
In Wales the value of EMA paid to learners aged 16 and over from low income families has remained the same since 2004 and eligibility thresholds haven’t changed since 2011.
The motion forms part of a longstanding campaign by Mr Fletcher who has urged the Welsh Government to consider an inflation-linked uplift as EMA has not kept up with cost of living pressures.
Since being elected in May 2021, Mr Fletcher has raised concerns around EMA in the Chamber, both around its value and the eligibility thresholds.
During the debate, Mr Fletcher said: “The fact that we have EMA here in Wales whilst England go without is something we should all be proud of.
“As we all know, the cost of living has had a detrimental impact on so many of our constituents; amongst them are students, particularly students from low-income households.
“What we’ve seen since 2004 is a real-terms cut in EMA. The payment as remained the same, the thresholds haven’t changed since 2011, and now low-income students are feeling the effects of that more than ever.
“The £30 I received when I was in receipt of EMA got me a lot further than the £30 of a student today.”
Responding to the debate, the Education Minister Jeremy Miles MS said: “We as a Government recognise the positive impact that EMA can have on young people, and we are still committed, in accordance with the programme for government, to maintaining the allowance.
“The Government will support the motion today, recognising the limitations on our room for action but also the merits of a review.
“In the meantime, we will continue to use every single lever available to us to support our young people and ensure that we do all we can to reflect the principle that money should never be a barrier to accessing education.”
NUS Wales has echoed Luke Fletcher’s calls to provide an uplift to EMA payments in line with inflation.
President of NUS Wales Orla Tarn said: “I’m delighted the Welsh Government has backed the Plaid Cymru motion to consider increasing education maintenance allowance (EMA) and expand eligibility.
“EMA is vital for supporting young learners from low income backgrounds through further education but even before the student cost of living crisis it didn’t go far enough.
“The fact that it’s stagnated at £30 a week for almost twenty years shows it’s not fit for purpose in 2023.
“Now NUS Wales is urging the Welsh Government to follow through to ensure that young people aren’t priced out of education.”
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