Cynon Valley Leader column – 3rd May

As a former teacher, I know just how important Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) is for young people, sometimes providing the financial lifeline that enables them to stay on in school or college. The Welsh Labour Government retained EMA in Wales after the Coalition scrapped it in England, subsequent to the 2010 general election. Currently, around 16,000 16 to 18 year olds in Wales studying academic or vocational qualifications on a full-time basis receive EMA, which is used for living costs such as travel or food.

However, the rate at which EMA is paid, and the household income threshold at which it is awarded, has remained unchanged for several years. I’ve made the case in the Senedd that this needs to be addressed, especially when we consider the cost of living crisis affecting our communities. The price of so many things has gone up, so it is only fair that EMA also be increased.

The Welsh Labour Government has heard this call, and responded. It will be increasing EMA from £30 to £40 per week for eligible 16 to 18 year olds from April. Education Minister Jeremy Miles MS announced that this will be guaranteed for the next two academic years, whilst a comprehensive review of EMA is undertaken. I am so proud that we are the only part of the UK to have given our young people this boost.

Just a quick update on my April column. Michelle Christopher’s Sepsis Savvy Walk from Glynhafod to Aberdare raised an amazing £4,196.36 for the Sepsis Trust. With six other similar walks taking place around the UK, altogether they raised just under £40,000 for the charity. I am also pleased to report that Cerys O’Connell did fantastically well at the World Transplant Games in Australia, winning five gold and one silver medals, breaking four world records and winning the best female junior athlete award. Well done to both local people!