MPs to debate Child Trust Funds as almost £73 million of savings locked away

5 mins read

Tuesday 19 March 2024

Tags: child trust funds, westminster debate, parent campaigner

More than 31,000 disabled young people have been locked out of their own savings worth collectively £73 million. This is happening during a cost-of-living crisis that has disproportionately affected disabled people.

Westminster Hall Debate calls for safe, simply and swift solution

By 2029, when all Child Trust Funds have matured, 80,000 disabled young people in England and Wales will be locked out of their savings worth almost £210 million.

Jeremy Quin, MP for Horsham, is leading a Westminster Hall Debate today, Tuesday 19 March. He aims to press the Justice Minister for a solution that could unlock millions held in these Child Trust Funds.

Tune in and watch the debate live on Parliament TV at 4.30pm (Please go to the Westminster Hall debate section).

Mr Quin said: “This is a simple question of fairness. We all want young disabled people to have access to their Child Trust Funds in a way that is not only safe, but simple and swift.

“We need to ensure young people with a learning disability don’t lose their savings. Parents have enough to cope with without having to battle to access money invested for their children.

“Ministers have already taken positive steps, but there is much more that can be done. This debate will highlight routes that could provide easier access to Child Trust Funds for families supporting disabled young people.”

Mr Quin will urge the Minister to extend the Department for Work and Pensions Appointee scheme to cover Child Trust Funds. This is a safe and protected way already used by many families to manage benefit income for their disabled child.

Mental capacity rules locking disabled youngsters out

While non-disabled youngsters can access Child Trust Fund savings on their 18th birthday, many with a learning disability cannot. Due to Mental Capacity rules, the families of young people with learning disabilities unable to manage their money have to apply through the court of protection to access their Child Trust Funds. This is a prohibitively lengthy, costly and complex process.

Due to the bureaucratic process, there were just 70 court applications between Sept 2020 and May 2023. This compares to around 27,000 accounts maturing over the same period – 0.26%. The Ministry of Justice made tweaks to the last year process – moving some of the application online, waiving the fees and creating a toolkit for parents. Despite this, it still involves completing 12 forms of 84 pages. And it requires time-pressured GPs or social workers to complete a legal document, which many refuse to do.

Parent campaigner, Andrew Turner, said: “I’m afraid the Ministry of Justice’s measures are woefully inadequate and have made no discernible difference. For the majority of families, the process of accessing their disabled child’s savings remains out of the question without legal help.

“Back in September 2020, my disabled son Mikey was locked out of his Child Trust Fund. He simply wanted to buy an adapted bike with his money, and his life-limiting condition meant that time was of the essence. The Child Trust Fund was his only financial asset, which made it special. Nobody warned us we would need to go to court when the account matured. When we took advice, we were told it would be easier and cheaper for us to wait until Mikey died, when we could use a simpler process to reclaim the money. It was deeply upsetting. Four years later, this situation has not changed.”

Families already under pressure don’t have time or energy

Anna Bird, Chief Executive of Contact, said: “Every day on our helpline we hear from families with disabled children and young people struggling to make ends meet during this cost-of-living crisis. Surely it is more important than ever that disabled young people can access their own money. Families already under enormous pressures simply don’t have the time or energy to go through such a bureaucratic process.

“Some providers are already using the DWP appointee scheme to help families access their child’s savings. It is a tried and tested system to enable families manage their child’s benefit income. It provides adequate protection and is the obvious solution to unlock the savings of disabled young people.”

Philip Warford, Managing Director of Renaissance Legal, said: “We founded the Child Trust Fund Access Campaign back in 2016, years before the first Child Trust Funds matured. We could see this was a ticking time bomb for families with a disabled or vulnerable child who lacked capacity.

“We talk to families all over the country who have made the decision not to apply to the court to access their money because it’s too onerous, or who’ve started the process and have simply given up because of the number of hurdles they have to overcome.

“Together with our fellow campaigners, we believe that families of disabled children who lack capacity should be able to access and use savings put aside for their future. We urge the Government to invest time and energy in finding a workable solution.”