The “incredible” human and social progress made since the 1980s will be “thrown into reverse” by the scrapping of the Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA), Andy Burnham has warned.
On a day that campaigners took part in protests against the proposals, the shadow education secretary said there was a “compelling case” to keep EMA for educational, social, economic and democratic reasons.
In an Opposition debate calling on the Government to rethink its policy, he said he was not prepared to see the ladder “kicked away” from young people.
Mr Burnham said the allowance helped 650,000 young people and sent out an “empowering message of hope”, allowing many young adults to have a “realistic dream” of going to university.
He also attacked the “myths” that the weekly payment of between £10 and £30 was used to pay for luxuries.
The money, paid to 16 to 18-year-olds living in households earning under £30,800, was “overwhelmingly used to provide the basics to support education” such as travel, books, equipment and food, he told MPs.
He condemned Conservative Margot James as an example of how “hopelessly out of touch” coalition MPs were after she claimed that 90% of students said they did not need the EMA.
Mr Burnham told the Commons: “The debate on tuition fees is already changing views on university. But for the least well-off, the full impact only becomes clear when set alongside the abolition of EMA.
“To those young people it feels like we have a Government which is stacking the odds against them.
“We are not prepared to see the ladder kicked away from those young people in the way that the Government propose.”