Belfast Telegraph

Friday 25 April 2014

Labour fails in bid to save EMA

A child joins protesters in Parliament Square, London, in a march against controversial plans to scrap the Education Maintenance Allowance

Plans to scrap the controversial Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) are set to proceed unabated despite clashes in the Commons and protests on the streets.

This comes after a bid by Labour to prevent the EMA being ditched was defeated in Parliament, following an afternoon of protest in which central London was once again thronged with the shouts of hundreds of students demonstrating in favour of keeping EMA.

The allowance is a weekly payment of between £10 and £30 given to the poorest 16 to 18-year-olds, living in households earning under £30,800 a year, to help them stay in education.

But the Government has announced the grant is to be withdrawn and it is has already been closed to new applicants.

Campaigners are warning that scrapping the grant will affect thousands of youngsters who rely on the money to help fund their studies.

Labour's call for Education Secretary Michael Gove to rethink his controversial decision was defeated by 317 votes to 258, Government majority 59.

During the debate shadow education secretary Andy Burnham warned that "incredible" human and social progress made since the 1980s would be "thrown into reverse" if the allowance was ditched.

Mr Burnham said there was a "compelling case" to keep EMA for educational, social, economic and democratic reasons.

It helped 650,000 young people and sent out an "empowering message of hope", allowing many young adults to have a "realistic dream" of going to university, he said.

But Mr Gove hit back, accusing Labour of failing to set out its position on a range of education policies and instead focusing on EMA despite the economic difficulties, saying: "You have only one policy: to spend money we don't have."

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