EMA was introduced as an incentive to encourage more young people from lower income households to stay on in post compulsory learning, and to address the issue that the UK had one of the lowest post-16 participation rates in OECD countries. The scheme was piloted from 1999 and rolled out nationally, to consecutive cohorts of learners in full-time education, from September 2004. It was extended to trainees in unwaged training provision in 2006.
We have previously estimated that, to have made the lowest level of EMA (the £10 per week payment) available to all learners not already receiving it would have increased expenditure by around £300 million in the 2007/08 academic year. We have not estimated the cost for 2009/10 and do not plan to do so. We believe that, to be effective, state support needs to be targeted where there is most need.