03/09/2008

Balls 'Frustrated' By EMA Delay Situation

Education Secretary Ed Balls has expressed 'frustration' at administrative delays currently slowing down the application process for Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA) grants.

Around 150,000 UK students are still waiting to hear if they have been approved for the grant, after the private contractor, appointed to manage the process, experienced technical problems.

Only a small number of teenagers, progressing into further education, have received confirmation that they are eligible for the £30-a-week scheme.

Mr Balls said he was frustrated with the situation, while addressing sixth formers at an East London college.

He said: "It's really frustrating that we're in this position with the EMA because actually EMAs are really, really important.

"They've made a huge difference in the last 10 years in helping young people to stay on at college to bridge for some young people the financial gap that would otherwise keep them out of college.

"I'm told by the Learning & Skills Council (LSC) that the contract is behind but they've got more staff in and their gearing up to get this sorted out.

"The important thing is no young person will not get the money.

"I've said to the Learning & Skills Council that they must work with colleges to ensure that no young person will not be able to start college because they're waiting for their payment.

"This is something the Learning & Skills Council is sorting out with the contractor but obviously as ministers, DIUS and myself want to make sure that this is sorted out as soon as possible."

The scheme is designed for students aged between 16 and 18, who come from low-income families.

The drive has formed part of the government's strategy to get more young people to pursue further education after the age of 16.

(PR/JM)

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