Much has been made about the scrapping of the Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA) in England. Its replacement is £180m bursary scheme to children in the lowest-income households. LibDems and of course Conservatives say this is better as it targets those on the lowest incomes rather than giving money to the slightly better off who spend the EMA on CDs/DVDs or video games.
I think we as Liberal Democrats should be taking a rather different approach to this than Labour and the Conservatives. Instead of paying kids to stay on in school by providing them money in order to buy books/stationery/transport etc. lets actually provide them with the necessary tools that they need to stay on in school.
There are a couple of reasons why the current approach of paying the kids directly is bad so let me explain:
First, when people are paid money whether its theirs or someone else lending money to them, they begin to take ownership of the money and they therefore feel entitled to the money even though it isn’t this. So if in this case the state decides that the money we hand to slightly less well-off would be better off going to the neediest. The slightly less well off get annoyed and angry that the state is taking money away from them.
These kids feel entitled to this money even though it isn’t theirs and partly because it is now their money, they can spend it on what they want rather than what the money was provided for.
Second, every company provides the books, stationery and if its required travel expenses for the employees in order to do their job. They do this as they want their employees thinking about their job. A kids job is to learn and be creative so that they learn to be the innovators of tomorrow yet we as a nation seem incapable of providing them with the tools they need to do that.
Textbooks and stationery should be provided so that they don’t have to worry about the cost. They can use the time worrying about cost and put it into their studies. School buses should be easily accessible or public transport should be free to and from school.
As a country, we should be doing everything we can to make sure the next generation can fulfill their potential.