Parents of disabled children have been warned that they may have to pay a fee to access savings deposited in Child Trust Funds (CTFs) and Junior Isas (Jisas) when their child turns 18.
Renaissance Legal, a practice that specialises in advice for parents and carers, says this issue occurs because once a child turns 18, any money deposited in a CTF or Jisa becomes theirs to use as they wish.
But when a child doesn’t have the mental capacity to access and manage the funds themselves, families and carers will have to apply to the Court of Protection to act as the child’s deputy.
The application process alone costs £400, and annual supervision fees are also due – how much depends on your circumstances. You may qualify for a reduction or waiving of these fess – but again this depends on the financial circumstances of the person you are applying on behalf of.
Renaissance Legal says the fees may exceed the amount held in the accounts in the first place.
It cites the case of one parent who says: “If I had known when she was a baby that my daughter had autism and a severe learning disability, I would never have paid more money into the account. We have a lot of worry and stress to contend with and the possibility of having to apply for court of protection is an added complication. I am angry that we will have to spend a lot of money to ensure that our daughter's money is safe for her.”
Petition for change
Renaissance Legal has launched a petition on Change.org calling for the Child Trust Fund system in particular, to be changed to enable children to access their funds without incurring fees.
It says it’s focusing on CTFs as opposed to Jisas, as CTFs were set-up as part of a government encouraged savings scheme. And while CTFs can now be transferred to Jisas, Renaissance Legal believes the majority of parents have left the money in CTFs.
Katherine Miller, director at Renaissance Legal, adds: "Not only do the vast majority of families believe their disabled child will lack the mental capacity to access their money, but families are also unsure how to go about doing so themselves. As well as the process being grossly unfair for those families, there is a lack of information as to how they can access the money their child is entitled to."
What are CTFs and Jisas?
Child Trust Funds: Most children born between September 2002 and January 2011 were given free savings vouchers by the government through the tax-free Child Trust Fund (CTF) scheme, in a move to give all children a savings pot when they reached adulthood, regardless of their backgrounds.
If you still have a CTF (these accounts are not on sale to new customers), you can add up to £4,080 a year to it. However, you can also transfer a CTF account to a Junior ISA where you’re likely to earn a higher rate of interest.
Junior Isas: These are tax-free Individual Savings Accounts for children under 18. There are two types; a cash Jisa and a stocks and shares Jisa. You can have one or both types, although as with CTFs the current annual limit this tax year is £4,080.