Everything You Need to Know about EMAs in Learning

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An Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA) helps by providing financial support for students under 20 who plan to stay on at school or college.

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How does it work?

  • EMAs are paid direct to young people, preferably into a bank account.
  • EMA is a weekly allowance payable during term time.
  • The weekly allowance normally depends on the financial circumstances of the family.

You must be from a low income family and do a full time course at school or college to qualify for an EMA. To get an EMA, applicants must have signed a Learning Agreement that must also be signed by a parent or responsible adult and by the school or college the applicant is studying at. Ask your school or college for an EMA application form. A parental signature isn't needed for students who are estranged from their families and deemed as independent for DSS benefit purposes. A student's signature isn't necessary if the student has special educational needs that make it impractical.

For a draft learning agreement go to the EMA Scotland website.

EMA - Frequently asked questions 

Q: Where do I apply? 
A: Ask your school or college for an EMA application form. 

Q: Where do I get more information? 
A: Ask your school/ college or local council for more information. 

Q: Can I apply late? 
A: Yes. If you are eligible from the autumn intake and apply within the first six weeks of the course, you will be paid from the start of term. Alternatively, if you apply from the winter intake, you will be paid from the start of the January term. No application will be processed for academic year 2012-13 after 31 March 2013.

Q: Do I have to pay it back? 
A: Not unless you are overpaid or have not met the conditions of your Learning Agreement. 

Q: Where is the money paid? 
A: Directly into your bank account. 

Q: Will it get me a job? 
A: Not directly. But if you use the extra time in school or college to get extra qualifications it should help you to get a better job than if you left school with none. 

Q: Does it affect benefits? 
A: No. EMA is currently paid over and above Child Benefit and other benefits. 

Q: Can I get an EMA if I am on Job Seekers' Allowance?
A: No. Young people on Job Seekers' Allowance or on government supported training schemes are not eligible for EMAs. 

Q: Is it only for low-income families? 
A: If your family income is less than £20,351, or less than £22,403 and there are two or more dependent children living in the household, you qualify for an EMA providing you meet the other eligibility criteria, eg age and residency.

Q: Do I need a bank account? 
A: Yes, this is preferable. If you have any problems opening a bank account, let your local council know. 

Q: Is my school/college in the scheme? 
A: All schools and FE colleges are in the scheme. 

Q: What if I move school during the school year? 
A: This will not affect your entitlement to an EMA, provided that you renew your EMA Learning Agreement.