The EMA has been a valuable grant to many young people I work with, encouraging and supporting them in staying in full-time education. The EMA is a weekly grant of up to £30 given to 16-18-year olds from the most disadvantaged homes to help them stay in education.
The government have described it as poorly-targeted and “a deadweight cost”, in that it is paid to many teenagers who would have attended anyway. On the news tonight we heard how the Institute for Fiscal Studies believe that expenditure on the EMA is recouped by the increase in productivity from those staying in education longer. My understanding of that is that whilst the policy cost money to implement, it would cost more if it wasn’t there. The IFS team believe that even if only a tiny percentage of people stay on in full-time education because of the grant it is still worth it.
What is more ironic is that the government are expected to keep winter fuel payments. Now I would defend these, again knowing how much of a difference these can make to many adults in the church where I work, but according to a number of news programmes it is paid to over 60,000 British winter expats, who are not even in the UK, because bizarrely you only have to be living in the UK between the 20th and 26th September to qualify for the full Winter Fuel Payment.
I understand that government’s will always look to please the voters, and that the generation who benefit from the EMA are too young to vote, but it does seem to be developing into a politics of anti-youth. Time and time again we seem to be increasing the costs of young people to stay in education, forcing adults to work longer, whilst protecting the rights and finances of the current nearly-retired generation.
Has the government become anti-youth or is it just having to make tough decisions in a difficult financial climate?