One place where the Con-Dem axe looks set to fall is on the Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) scheme.
Despite the failings, underfunding and unreliability of this privatised service, EMA is essential for allowing many people from low income families to access further education.
The new Con-Dem government has said it “will be difficult to commit” to even Labour’s pathetic funding of education, and they haven’t promised to fully fund the EMA scheme.
The effect of a cut to EMA funding can be seen in Scotland where the SNP has been chiselling away at funds since the beginning of the economic meltdown. NUS Scotland predicts that this is forcing over 8,000 young people a year to drop out of education.
But the cut of 20% in Scotland is likely to seem relatively small compared to what the Con-Dems have in mind. There are already rumours that they will axe the bonuses received at the end of term.
EMA is already grossly inadequate and many students are forced to take on part-time work in addition to it. EMA is funded by the government giving money to private contractors to do the administration and take any profits it may make. This is just an incentive for these companies to do the job on the cheap. Many simply do not employ enough people to cope with the amount of work.
It is now the rule rather than the exception for EMA payments to arrive late and many applications have been lost within the bureaucracy for months.
Despite these failings, the scheme has had some successes. Over 70% of students who receive it live up to the academic expectations of their teachers and maintain regular attendance throughout the year.
Cuts to EMA and young people being forced into part-time work would leave them unable to focus on their studies and substantially decrease this figure.
Instead of cuts, funding for the EMA scheme should be increased. Then the means-testing could be abolished so that every college student could receive it.
The administration of the scheme should also be taken into public ownership to stop private businesses making money from driving down conditions for young people.
The bosses can afford to give themselves multi million pound pensions and billions of pounds in bonuses. The money is there and we should use it to support young people not the super rich.