No bonanza for disabled teenagers barred from accessing child trust funds | Letter

From September young people turning 18 will start to receive payments from ‘baby bonds’ – but, writes Andrew Turner, those with mental capacity issues will be unable to take control of their money

Your feature about child trust funds rightly highlighted the positive attributes of the scheme (£9bn bonanza begins as child trust funds come of age, 22 August). Unfortunately, for thousands of disabled young people and their families it will not be bonanza time.

Our disabled son turns 18 in September and will be one of the first young people allowed to take control of their child trust fund account. Except that he cannot take control, as he is unable to manage his finances. He relies on us – his parents – to help him with money and his only financial asset is his child trust fund. He would like to buy a new adapted bicycle with his savings, but because the scheme has no process for dealing with mental capacity issues, come September he will be completely barred from accessing his account. We then face the cost and delay of an application to the court of protection on his behalf. With Covid-19 delays in the court system, we are told it could take up to a year to secure this approval, with costs ranging from £365 for a basic court application to £2,500 if a solicitor is required.

In 2005, the government offered parents additional incentive payments to invest in a child trust fund if they were claiming disability living allowance. From September, many of these disabled young people may not receive any benefit from their savings if they are reliant on their parents for help with finance. The prospect of initiating a formal court process alongside the challenges of supporting a disabled young person will be daunting for many families. With providers like OneFamily quoting an average fund value of £2,079, for many parents the sums invested will simply not justify the cost and effort of a court application.

Urgent action is needed from Rishi Sunak and the government. Extending an existing child trust fund procedure for children with a terminal illness to cover mental capacity offers a practical path to an easy resolution. Then no disabled young person will be prevented from enjoying the benefit of their savings. Now that would be a bonanza.
Andrew Turner
Rusper, West Sussex

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