I started a bit of an office debate yesterday on EMA; Education Maintenance Allowance, because of my delight at the recent/potential reforms. Firstly, a little disclaimer- I’m somewhat politically naive and ignorant, so anyone quoting policy, or bureaucratic nuances below is wasting their energy.
I wholeheartedly agree with the developments because of my own personal experience with the EMA system, having seen its benefits and failings first-hand.
So, you’re probably thinking, what right does a political novice have to blog on a political issue? Well, every right as it’s framed in the context of recent, real-life experience.
In sixth form we were told EMA was for people whose household income was less than £30k (or something like that). I didn’t qualify, but wasn’t really arsed as I had started a part time job the summer previous. Of course, if I was eligible, I would have bitten the bursary’s hand off, but my job would provide me with more. £30 a week might come in handy, but I liked (and still do) to live a varied, sociable lifestyle, and £30 just isn’t sufficient.
It was made clear at our school, that people who were eligible for EMA would only get it on the condition they had 100% attendance; in effect an incentive to come in. Hold on, doesn’t that detract from what a fund like this should be for? Shouldn’t it be unconditional; for those less well off, who genuinely want to be there and learn, and not just to pick up a packet for showing up? There’s something inherently corrupt about being ‘paid’ to learn. First failing with the system.
Anyway so, some of the people that got EMA were, and are my best mates, and many didn’t have jobs. Why? Because, while they could have more money by working, it wasn’t worth it as £30 at the end of the week ‘would do’. Why should I work, when others don’t have to? I didn’t mind though- you reap what you sow. Second failing.
I also knew people, who’s parents were very, very wealthy but had retired or worked under ‘different’ circumstances and these people still received EMA. This shows the EMA vetting process to be so lax, it’s laughable. Third failing.
What does knowing that there’s some easy, free dosh waiting for you at the end of the week do to personal drive? It creates a mindset that expects, not one that intends.
Many of the people I encountered spent the money on drink and revelry. Fourth failing.
I heard EMA costs taxpayers something in the region of £560million a year- WTF?! That’s absolutely astronomical! In light of my account above, just imagine how that money could be better spent. A reformed fund system could be designed and implemented for those who both need and want it most, but with much tighter screening, and selection. This would not only save money, but would ensure that people who were most in need and those with true desire to learn would get the help they needed to realise their potential. And money wouldn’t be wasted, or smoked or drank.
I realise I’ve made some broad generalisations in this post, but it’s just what I saw. Maybe what I experienced was the result of this country becoming a welfare state? What do you think? Any other experiences?