After consistent pressure and sustained campaigning efforts from Plaid economy spokesperson Luke Fletcher since his election to the Senedd in 2021, the Welsh Government has announced today an uplift to the Education Maintenance Allowance from £30 to £40. "A welcome first step," said Luke, "but still a way to go."
There is welcome news for young people in Wales today who will see an increase to their Education Maintenance Allowance payments from this month onwards.
The increase comes from the Welsh Government after sustained pressure from organisations such as The Bevan Foundation, National Union of Students Wales, as well as Plaid Cymru's economy spokesperson Luke Fletcher MS. Mr. Fletcher has consistently raised, both inside and outside of the Senedd, the need for an inflation-linked uplift to the allowance.
In November last year, Mr. Fletcher launched a nationwide survey to gather information on students' experiences with EMA and how young learners are using the allowance in light of cost-of-living pressures. A motion was also put forward for debate in the Senedd by Mr. Fletcher on the 15th February 2023, calling upon the Welsh Government to consider an inflation-linked uplift to the value of the allowance and a review of the thresholds.
The increase announced by the Minister for Education and Welsh Language, Jeremy Miles MS, is a two-year commitment while a comprehensive review of EMA is underway.
Approximately 16,000 students in Wales currently receive the grant.
Plaid economy spokesperson Luke Fletcher said: "Since my election to the Senedd in 2021, I have consistently campaigned for the Education Maintenance Allowance to be increased from £30 per week to at least £45 per week.
"Countless conversations I've had with young people in receipt of EMA made it clear that the current payment wasn't coming close to covering basic costs. Many were resorting to using EMA not for its stated purpose of enhancing their educational experience, but for helping their families through this artificially imposed cost-of-living crisis.
"EMA should be at around £54 per week today, a £24 uplift from the £30 learners currently receive. This means that successive Welsh Governments have cut the real-terms value of EMA by a third over the last 15 or so years.
Mr. Fletcher added: "I welcome this commitment from the government as a step in the right direction and will continue to push for an inflation-linked increase as well a change in the eligibility thresholds to broaden access to this crucial lifeline.
"Having been in receipt of EMA myself, I know just how much of a huge difference this increase will make to so many students. It's a welcome first step, but we still have a way to go."
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