I asked in a recent letter to the Journal who would be next on the Stormont hit-list. It did not take long to find out.
Once again the most vulnerable are the losers. The Department of Employment and Learning has announced that adult apprentices over the age of 25 will not have day release courses paid for in certain categories. Those affected by the cuts include child care trainees and people working in nursing homes. Incredibly, the DEL described these as not ‘economically important’ areas. How crass can a Departmental spokesperson be? How can child care be unimportant in an economy driven largely by working parents? Nursing homes are ‘economically unimportant’? The Department has a lot of learning to do.
Stormont has published plans to cut or withdraw grants which help less well off school pupils to stay on at school (Education Maintenance Allowance). The proposed changes are supposed to benefit less well off students. But EMA is means tested: only 25% of pupils apply for the allowance, and they are from low income families. So the plan is to rob poor Peter to pay slightly poorer Paul. Pupil attendance, learning expectations and pupil behaviour have all improved as a result of the present scheme. Cuts in EMA in Scotland have resulted in thousands of pupils dropping out of education. The same will happen here, but at least in Scotland university education is free. Without EMA many students from lower income families in Northern Ireland will not be able to complete their secondary education. Increased fees have already made university a no-go area for many.
When are our MPs and MLAs going to start supporting the people who supported them? In a properly managed economy, everyone could enjoy a decent standard of living. The money is there. Young people should be able to achieve their potential. The sick and the old should get the care they deserve. Unfortunately, the present crop of well paid politicians would appear to be incapable of organising a beerfest in a brewery.