Teenagers in one of the most deprived areas of England will be paid to attend school after the council brought back the education maintenance allowance (EMA) to help amid the cost of living crisis.
Tower Hamlets Council has earmarked £500,000 from its reserves to provide 1,250 16- to 19-year-old students from low-income families with a £400 payment to help with the costs that come with staying in further education.
The plans, put forward by mayor Luftur Rahman and his Aspire party, were signed off by Tower Hamlets cabinet members on Wednesday, the same day Labour’s Council of Skills Advisers said a future Labour government should bring back the EMA.
The means-tested UK-wide bursary scheme was first launched in 2004 by Tony Blair’s government, and supported almost one in three 16- to 19-yea- olds with payments of £10, £20 or £30 a week. The government scrapped the scheme for pupils in England in 2011 as part of David Cameron’s austerity measures, however it is still offered in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.
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Rahman, who was this year re-elected as mayor of Tower Hamlets having been removed in 2015 by an electoral court, said he was “absolutely thrilled” to reinstate the bursary. He said he hopes it will “help minimise the financial challenges for young people pursuing further education”.
“EMA can make all the difference to a student, and help change the course of a young person’s life. It’s the ability to travel to college and gain qualifications, whether it be an apprenticeship or to get to university,” he said.