The government’s plans to cut the weekly allowance for students is causing concern in the alcohol industry.
The FET, Wednesday 19th January
The Education Maintenance Allowance currently provides 16-19 year-olds from poorer backgrounds with between ten and thirty pounds a week.
While some students are believed to be blowing the money on school-related costs, such as books and travel, the majority of recipients have been contributing to the retail sector through heavy purchasing of alcopops and cheap lager.
However, as part of the general scheme of cutbacks in welfare, the government is planning to remove the EMA on account of it being “wasteful”.
The announcement has led to heavy criticism from the Labour Party and a flurry of student protests across the country.
The leader of the Labour Party Ed Milliband has described the cuts as a threat to the economic recovery, citing the alcohol trade as an area with considerable potential for growth.
“At a time of general despair like this, lots of people are turning to drink and we should be encouraging them” said Milliband.
“But instead, David Cameron wants to stop some of our most passionate binge drinkers, those in their late teens, by taking away the money that’s funding it.”
The chancellor George Osborne has responded to these criticisms by emphasising his commitment to an economy that is strong on alcohol. He insisted that the money saved by cancelling the EMA would be channelled into more efficient economic stimuli.
“We appreciate the importance of the alcohol industry, but we don’t think that the EMA is the best way to help that sector” said Osborne. “Students simply aren’t reliable enough drinkers, and the EMA isn’t sufficiently targeted on alcohol consumption.”
“We think that this money would be better invested in the homeless and those with a history of alcohol dependence.”
A representative of the student protesters in Dudley described the accusation that students are not reliable consumers of alcohol as “laughable”. Many young people also fear that a decline in drinking could lead to fewer jobs being created in the bottling industry and the social care sector.