Leighton Andrews, Minister for Children, Education and Lifelong Learning
The Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) Wales scheme was introduced for 16 year olds in 2004/05. In 2005/06, the scheme was extended to include 16 and 17 year olds and, in 2006/07, 18 year olds. The principal component of EMA is a weekly allowance, linked to satisfactory attendance, paid to eligible learners attending learning centres in Wales.
The aim of EMA is to address the link between low income and low participation by providing a financial incentive to young people from low-income households to remain in full-time education beyond compulsory education.
When the EMA schemes were launched nationally in 2004 it was agreed by representatives of the United Kingdom Government and all the devolved administrations including the Welsh Assembly Government that support from the EMA schemes would be open to learners from across the UK according to where they study, not where they are ordinarily resident.
In July 2010 I announced changes to the EMA Wales scheme from 2011/12 which would ensure a focus where the scheme has most impact. The arrangements for implementing the changes also protect those currently in receipt of EMA, who would no longer be eligible under the new scheme, until completion of their course. This protection is subject to continuing to meet the original eligibility and income threshold criteria.
On October 20 the Chancellor, George Osborne, announced to the UK Parliament that the EMA scheme in England would be abolished and replaced. Officials from the Department for Education have confirmed that the scheme in England will close entirely on 31 August 2011. It is being replaced with the enhanced discretionary learner support fund (DLSF) for those in extreme hardship.
Without further changes to the EMA Wales scheme from September 2011, Welsh learners studying in England would no longer be able to apply for an EMA. According to figures reported by the Young People’s Learning Agency in England, 897 Welsh domiciled learners received the EMA from England in 2009/10.
Therefore, taking account of this set of circumstances, from 2011/12, the scheme eligibility criteria will specify that learners must be ordinarily resident in Wales (Welsh domiciled) to apply to the EMA Wales scheme. Welsh domiciles entering post 16 learning for the first time and studying elsewhere in the UK will be eligible to apply to the EMA Wales scheme, subject to meeting personal eligibility and the income threshold criteria. Those Welsh domiciles currently studying in England and receiving the English EMA will be required to apply as new applicants to the EMA Wales scheme if they wish to claim an allowance in the second and third years of their study. Receipt of EMA by any eligible learner studying outside Wales will be dependent on the participation in the EMA Wales scheme of the particular learning centre at which the learner is studying. Contact has been made with those learning centres which we know usually have Welsh domiciled learners in attendance, to establish their willingness to participate in our scheme.
We believe the change is appropriate to ensure a focus on all post 16 Welsh learners most in need.