Wales is set to be the first UK nation to increase the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) payment, the Minister for Education and Welsh Language, Jeremy Miles has confirmed.
From April 2023 the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) will increase from £30 per week to £40 for eligible further education students in sixth form or college.
EMA is a weekly grant designed to support 16 to 18-year-olds from low-income households with further education costs, such as transport or meals.
FE students are eligible for EMA if their household income is £20,817 or less, if they are the only young person in the household, or £23,077 if there is more than one young person in the household. An FE Calculator (Student Finance Wales) is available to check students eligibility.
The increase will be a commitment for the next two academic years, while a comprehensive review into EMA is conducted.
Around 16,000 further education students in Wales currently receive the payment, which is paid every two weeks.
Alongside this increase to the EMA, Jeremy Miles also announced funding to allow free appeals for economically disadvantaged learners taking general and vocational qualifications in Summer 2023.
Minister for Education and Welsh Language, Jeremy Miles said:
In Wales we have continued to protect the Education Maintenance Allowance, with the increased payment helping with the reality of the cost of learning for students.
We appreciate that the rate of EMA has not increased for some time, and during the current cost of living crisis, we understand young people are also feeling the financial strain. While we work to undertake an independent review of EMA, this raise will provide additional help to remove barriers to learning. EMA and the free appeals system for students taking exams are part of a package of support we provide in Wales to eligible students. I would encourage young people to find out if they qualify.
NUS Wales President Orla Tarn said:
I’m pleased that the Welsh Government has listened to students and announced a long-awaited increase to Education Maintenance Allowance.
EMA is vital in supporting young people from low income families with the cost of further education, however, in the context of spiralling cost of living, it was clear an increase was needed to stop young learners from being priced out of education.
There is still lots of work to do to address the cost-of-learning crisis. Students across Wales are facing a perfect storm of rising rent, bloated bills, massive increases in food prices, and transport costs which are forcing learners to choose between attending classes and paying for food.
Any review of EMA should be grounded in how best to equip further education students to reach their full potential in our education system and I look forward to working with the Welsh Government to ensure that student voice is at the heart of decision making.