Trainees boosted by £168,000 fund

More than 1000 city teenagers have been thrown a financial lifeline after £168,000 of council cash was secured to help them stay in education – filling the void left by the removal of EMA.

Training bosses from Birmingham’s Workbased Learning Partnership have been calling for extra cash to be made available since last year, when the Government announced that Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA) was being stopped.

In a landmark move, Birmingham City Council has now provided the £168,000 windfall – dubbed the Alternative Training Allowance (ATA) – to support city learners who are missing out on EMA.

The fund has now been set up and learners started to receive the cash last week.

The ATA will provide around 700 teenage learners who have been struggling to meet their education costs with the equivalent of £20 a week for their nine-week course. The fund also provides for similar payments to hundreds more new learners who are expected to be ‘priced back in’ to education thanks to the cash.

Training providers match-funded the allowance by providing weekly travel passes worth £14.50, and in some cases food vouchers and other incentives.

EMA had provided between £10 and £30 to students encouraging them to stay in education.

Kevin Hayes, chief executive of training provider Enta and joint chair of the Foundation Learning Forum, said: “When EMA stopped, the number of learners on some Enta courses dropped by half because trainees could not afford to attend.

“Additional funding was vital to stop these youngsters getting thrown on the scrapheap and we’re absolutely delighted with Birmingham City Council’s decision.

“It’s a landmark agreement and I think it will lead to other areas across the country following Birmingham’s example.”

To be eligible for the cash, learners have to be aged 16 to 18 and completing a Foundation Learning programme.

Mr Hayes said that the results would be significant for both the youngsters and the city.

He explained: “The outcomes from this initiative will be a reduction in the number of young people entering the NEET – Not in Employment, Education or Training – register and a reduction in criminal activity amongst young people.

“Critically for the young people in the programme, they will gain qualifications and a progression into apprenticeships, further education and in some cases employment; thereby demonstrating a commitment to move their lives forward.

“We’re delighted that Birmingham City Council found the money to support us and particularly grateful to Councilor Les Lawrence, who has taken all of our very serious concerns on board throughout the discussions.”

Birmingham and Solihull Workbased Training Providers Network are paying the costs to administer the fund to ensure that all money goes directly to the learners. Enta, which is also a leading social enterprise, will manage the fund.

Councillor Les Lawrence, Cabinet Member for Children, Young People and Families, said: “We’ve been in close discussions with the Workbased Learning Partnership and the Foundation Learning Forum for some months now and I’m delighted that we were able to introduce the Alternative Training Allowance.

“It will be a lifeline to more than 1000 learners in the city and proves that Birmingham’s education system is at the very forefront of the UK in supporting its youngsters.

“My belief is that this scheme will be very successful and we are therefore exploring how this can be continued and developed on an ongoing basis.”

To apply or find out more about the funding, contact Enta on 0121 380 4800.

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