In 2005, then-chancellor Gordon Brown launched a new scheme to encourage parents to save money for their children.
Under the Child Trust Fund (CTF) policy, every child born between September 1st 2002 and January 2nd 2011 was eligible to receive at least £250, which they’d be able to access once they turned 18.
But many young people who are now old enough to claim their money are yet to do so.
In fact, a new report by the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) estimates that more than four in ten 18 to 20-year-olds have not claimed the savings in their matured accounts.
Figures also show that more than £1.7bn is currently waiting to be claimed by nearly a million young adults.
So what’s gone wrong?
Some of those who haven’t claimed the money will have simply lost track of these accounts, while others might not even know they have a CTF in their name.
The PAC has therefore called on HMRC to do more to find and get in touch with anyone who hasn’t claimed money they’re entitled to, and has criticised the organisation for a “failure in long-term planning”.
Trust providers were also singled out for criticism, with the PAC noting that although they’re charging fees for managing CTFs – and potentially earning up to £100m a year through these charges – they’re doing little to connect dormant accounts with their owners.
Figures showed that just four out of 55 providers have proactively and voluntarily worked with the Tracing Group to find people who may have forgotten about their account.
The fact that so much money is going unclaimed by young people is especially worrying given that this same group are among those hit hardest by the cost of living crisis.
As the PAC notes, about half of all CTFs were for children in low-income families – and many of these could be among those failing to claim this money now.
The CTF policy was designed with the idea that young people would have a pot of money available upon reaching adulthood, and understand the wisdom of saving.
But if those who would benefit don’t know about it then they’re at an instant disadvantage.
Keeping track of different accounts can be difficult enough, but if so many people turning 18 don’t know about CTFs or how much money they’re sitting on, it’s clear that the ball has been dropped.
Let’s hope that HMRC acts on the PAC’s recommendations and helps young people access this money, as it could make a very real and tangible difference to them at a crucial point in their lives.