Committee Calls for Clarity on Education Maintenance Allowance

Session: 2011/2012

Date: 25 January 2011

Reference: E&L 07/10/11

The Northern Ireland Assembly’s Employment and Learning Committee has called on the Department of Employment and Learning to clarify its thinking on the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) given to lower income learners. The allowance is to be abolished in England and Wales and the Department here is considering its retention, in some form, in its draft budget.

A review of EMA, commissioned by the Departments of Employment and Learning and Education, has examined the impact that the payment of up to £30 per week had on staying on rates. The Committee, which is examining the Department’s draft budget, is concerned that the full implications of a change have not been fully investigated.

Chairperson of the Committee, Dolores Kelly, MLA, said: “My Committee understands full well that the Department of Employment and Learning’s budget is under great pressure. However, we are not convinced that the Department has fully investigated the benefit that the current EMA brings to young disadvantaged learners.

“The Review of EMA is a good start. However, we feel it is important that a number of issues are teased out. We need to have more qualitative analysis of the way that EMA impacts on both the young people and their families. We also would wish to see a more in-depth discussion on the statistics presented in the Report. We are also interested to know whether there is any strategic difference between when the EMA was introduced and now that would render it unnecessary.”

Deputy Chairperson of the Committee, Jonathan Bell, MLA, said: “Having just concluded our year long inquiry into those not in education, employment or training, the so-called NEETs, we believe that a full consultation is required before the Department changes the way EMA is applied.”

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