In the last of our posts today, a first reminder that applications from young people aged 16 or over on or before 30th September must be received by 30th September in order to be considered for payment backdated to the start of term. Applications submitted after this date can be paid only from the week in which we first receive it. If you’re still waiting on supporting evidence please consider sending us your application now, with whatever information you do have available.
This eligibility for backdated payments does not apply to young people aged 16 between 1 Oct and 29th Feb or to those applying under the recently announced increased income thresholds (see previous post). Payment for both of these can only be considered from January.
We regret to advise that EMA cover will be limited to 9-3:30 Tue 8th & Wed 9th Sep only (Public Holiday Monday) and 9-3:30 Mon 14th -Wed 16th September only.
We continue to experience a high volume of applications and are working through these in order of receipt and as quickly as we can. All applications received by Friday 28th August have been assessed and either moved forward for approval or returned under query. Those received after this date will continue to be logged and assessed, subject to the above limited service with a likely review timescale of 28 working days.
We apologise for any inconvenience caused.
Scottish Government recently announced mid-year changes to the EMA programme. The first is that income thresholds (2014/15 taxable income) are to increase from 1st January to £24421 for families with one dependent child and £26884 for families with more than one dependent child. All applicants aged 16 or over on or before 29th February can apply under these new thresholds from October but payment under these new thresholds can only begin from the start of the January 2016 term (subject to usual application submission deadlines).
We will be reviewing all who had previously applied under the previous thresholds of £20321/ £22403 and were refused because the income was too high. We will contact those who could now benefit from the higher threshold in due course.
If you are aged 16 or over on or before 30th September and are applying under the higher threshold, you can only be paid from January ’16. If your household income was within the previous lower thresholds, you will still be eligible for payment from the start of the August term (for applications received by 30th September) or from the week in which we first received your application (applications received between 1st Oct ’15 & 31st March ’16).
The Scottish Government announcement about this increase can be found here. We will arrange for applications and guidance to be updated in due course.
The second change advised by Scottish Government affects applications for awards made on a provisional (temporary) basis and the possible recovery of any/all EMA payments made. We are awaiting further guidance from Scottish Government on this matter and will advise further once we know more. If you are affected by this change we will write to you.
As you will appreciate, these changes will take time to be fully updated in our publicity items, application paperwork and other correspondence. We will endeavour to do so as soon as possible while we continue to log and assess applications currently being received.
The next fortnightly payment run is complete and due to reach accounts on Friday 28th August. This includes:
- payment for week ended 21st August for those at school aged 16 or over by 30th Sep ’15 and whose approved Learning Agreement has been received and updated by school,
- payment for fortnight ended 21st August for those undertaking an Activity Agreement
- the final catch-up backdated payment for the very few young people who submitted a claim for genuine medical absence during the last week(s) of the 14/15 June term.
Please note that generally applications approved in any one week will not be through the final stages of the EMA process in time to meet the Monday payment deadline. Learning Agreements can still be submitted to school and will be updated by them once the record is available to do so, with authorised payments expected to pick up in the next available timetabled run.
There are an increasing number of applications being received without a large stamped addressed envelope in which we can return original documents. Please ensure you comply with EMA guidance and provide a SAE each time you send us original documents to support your EMA.
Alternatively please visit any main Falkirk Council One Stop where your documents can be photocopied while you wait and originals returned immediately. These certified copies will then be sent on to us with the application form.
As previously posted, there will be one final payment released on Monday 24th August for any pupils returning to school who had EMA during the 14/15 session and who had payment withheld for the last week of the June term due to genuine sickness absence. Subject to normal absence terms and conditions, this can be considered only where a self cert or parental letter is held by your school EMA Admin/Clerical staff by Friday 21st August at the latest.
All 14/15 administration will be closed after 24th August after which time it will not be possible to claim for any weeks of that previous session.
We understand the central helpline for DWP detailed in our guidance document, although correct at time of print, is now no longer valid. Unfortunately DWP have been unable to provide us with an alternative centralised number so if you need to check addresses or other information related to benefit income, in the first instance please check any previous correspondence from DWP for contact details. A local DWP benefit office may also be confirm relevant contacts.
Current processing times are around 2-3 weeks although we aim to return any original supporting evidence more quickly. If you applied more than 28 days ago and have not heard from us, please let us know.
Applications will continue to be assessed in order of receipt and as quickly as we can. Remember that we only return applications under query when we don’t have enough information to complete the assessment so if you can read the checklist and guidance and try to give us what’s asked for, your application can be moved on for approval more quickly.
This also applies to applications for any Free School Meals and School Clothing Grants applications which may be submitted by your parents to our colleagues in Revenues Services – both these and EMA are at their highest volume just now so if you can help ensure a straight-forward assessment wherever possible, we’ll do this as soon as we can!
We would like to wish everyone all the best for the SQA results, due tomorrow, Tuesday 4th August. If you need help or advice with any aspect of your SQA exam results please contact your school or the SQA .
We’re happy to help applicants or parent/carers/advisors with any aspect of EMA, including completion of the application form or general absence procedures. Unfortunately, we don’t always have access to facilities where we can speak to you confidentially and won’t usually be able to have a member of the team available at short notice. However, most general queries can usually be quickly answered by phone or found within the information on the EMA page of the main Falkirk Council website.
As mentioned in our previous post, deaf service users can now have any enquiries about Council services dealt with on the spot by a member of the Customer First Team thanks to the introduction of Sign Language Live. Customer First Team can help with your EMA by photocopying original documents as you wait and thereafter sending all through to us for assessment. They are also involved in the receipt and processing of Clothing Grant / Free School Meals applications. If Sign Language Live could be of help to you or your parents/carers, please see the main press release (click here) or speak to a member of Customer First Staff at any of the seven One Stop Shops. Falkirk Council can also provide communication services for deaf-blind people free of charge.
On the Falkirk Council website, our EMA page can be read aloud to you by using the Narration option on your PC or tablet’s operating system. Alternatively, BrowseAloud is a free downloadable software which reads webpages aloud for anyone who finds it difficult to read online. If this would be helpful, further info can be found on: http://www.browsealoud.com.
If English is not your first language and you’d like some help with translation, you may find the free Google Translate service of use – just click the icon towards the top right of this page and select your preferred language. This service can also be used for our EMA page on the Falkirk Council website in 4 easy steps:
- visit Google Translate (press your ”Ctrl” button & click here)
- select your language
- copy and paste the website address (URL) www.falkirk.gov.uk/ema
- click “translate”
If we can be of any other help, or if there’s additional support you’d like us to try and provide, please contact us.