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Learning a living, better support for post 16 learners

February 7th 2020

The Welsh Government provides vital support with the cost of living and education for young people from low income families who are in post-16 education. These schemes are administered by further education colleges, local authorities and Student Finance Wales on behalf of the Welsh Government.

As part of a larger project on the help that is provided to low-income families in Wales, the Bevan Foundation have reviewed the schemes providing support to young people from families trapped in poverty. Whilst we found that many young people valued the support they received, there are a number of shortcomings with the current system:

  • Many young people from low income families are locked out from receiving support due to arbitrary and inconsistent eligibility criteria.
  • The value of the support is not sufficient to lift people out of poverty.
  • There is a lack of consistency in the support available, which depends on where a young person continues their education.
  • The application process can be complicated and inconsistent.

In order to ensure that young people in post-16 education have enough to live on we are calling on the Welsh Government to implement both short and longer term changes to the current system. In the short term the Welsh Government should:

  • Raise the eligibility threshold for Education Maintenance Allowance and Welsh Government Learning Grant so that no young person in poverty misses out.
  • Increase the cash value of EMA to £45 a week and WGLG to £2,350 a year – restoring them to their mid-2000s levels.
  • Provide help for students facing additional costs such as food and transport.
  • Establish an ‘inflation lock’ so that the eligibility threshold and grant maintain their value.
  • Simplify and streamline the administration of the schemes.

In the longer term, the Welsh Government should consider more radical reform. The changes made to student finance in higher education should be reflected in the further education sector, with a mix of means-tested loans and grants available to all learners irrespective of their level of education. This would recognise that further education contributes to the economy and labour market, and that learners in vocational subjects need financial support just as much as in higher education.

Report format: PDF
Language: English
Page:  26
Cost:  Free

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