Allowance cuts spark local fears

YOUNG people from low income families will find it increasingly difficult to continue their education without financial assistance - Skegness town councillors fear.

At a town council meeting last Wednesday a motion was carried to lobby MP for Boston and Skegness Mark Simmonds to reverse the government’s decision to withdraw the Educational Maintenance Allowance.

A student speaking in the public session said: “I’ve attended this meeting tonight to highlight the issues affecting students in this area - all EMA is being abolished and this is causing young people to drop out of college. It’s about time the government started serving the public that elected them.”

EMA provided up to £30 a week to students aged between 16 and 19 from low income families to help with transport and the costs of educational materials. With the lack of further education facilities in Skegness and above average rates of deprivation the EMA was valuable to many of the town’s young aspirational young people.

More than three quarters of post 16 students at Skegness Academy received EMA.

Greenwood Academies Trust chief executive Barry Day said: “The decision to cut EMA is of huge concern to those of us who work in areas of deprivation.

“EMA supports young people with their learning; it allows young people who come from families where money is tight to consider post 16 education as a viable option.”

Many students in Skegness have to travel to attend further education establishment offering the qualifications required for their preferred careers.

With Lincolnshire’s unenviable transportation network Coun George Saxon thought the demands imposed on students hoping to continue their education was heavy enough even with the assistance of EMA.

Lincolnshire County Council have also cut subsidised transport for post 16 year olds.

Coun Mark Anderson, who raised the motion, explained that one student in his constituency travelling to Boston College would see her transport costs raise from £175 to £700 a year and would no longer have EMA to assist with those increased costs. “This is a further nail in the coffin for education and has been highlighted by a young person who will suffer from it,” he said

Without incentives to remain in education Coun Phil Kemp believed that children from deprived backgrounds would not be able to climb the social ladder. “If you are in a poverty trap the only way out of that is through education.” He said.

Mark Simmonds has defended the decision as a necessary means to cut the budget deficit to ensure ‘support is targeted to those who really need it.’

He also said the government is working on a scheme designed to achieve that. At the meeting, councillors discussed a £25million grant available for those in exceptional hardship which they felt Skegness would be able to qualify for due to its levels of deprivation and lack of local further education facilities.