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Finance expert warns 114,000 teenagers could be missing out on £1,500 payout

More than 114,000 teenagers in the UK could be missing out on the opportunity to unlock their share of £171.4 million worth of savings in Child Trust Fund accounts, according to new research by NerdWallet.

The first Child Trust Fund accounts were launched in 2005 and made available to all children in the UK born between September 11, 2002 and January 2, 2011. They began to mature one year ago on September 1, 2020, as the first recipients turned 18.

Since then, around 720,000 of the 6.3 million registered Child Trust Fund accounts have matured. After accounts mature, the holder gains full control of the money. They can choose to withdraw their savings or transfer them into an adult savings account or ISA.

However, an estimated one million people are out of touch with their Child Trust Fund accounts and may not receive notification that they have savings waiting to be withdrawn.

This means that teenagers in the UK could be missing out on a windfall as the average Child Trust Fund account has a holding of £1,500.

While some account holders may have lost track of their funds when they changed addresses, others may be unaware that one was opened in the first place.

Around 30 per cent of Child Trust Fund accounts were set up on behalf of children by HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC), but some parents and guardians may have missed the notification that an account was opened for their child.

What is a Child Trust Fund?

A Child Trust Fund is a long-term, tax-free savings account offered to children born between September 1, 2002 and January 2, 2011.

They were introduced by the UK Government to encourage parents and guardians to save for their children’s future.

The UK Government contributed £250 towards each Child Trust Fund account, or £500 for low-income households, on opening the account and then another £250 or £500 on the child’s seventh birthday.

New accounts are no longer available, as Child Trust Funds were replaced by Junior ISAs (JISAs), but up to £9,000 can be saved into an existing Child Trust Fund each year until the account matures. The financial year for a Child Trust Fund starts on a child’s birthday and ends the day before their next.

Anyone can deposit into a Child Trust Fund, including parents, grandparents and guardians.

How to find a lost Child Trust Fund

Tracking down an account is simple, you can trace a lost Child Trust Fund online by submitting a request form on Gov.uk here.

You will need a UK Government Gateway ID and password before you can fill out the form, however, it only takes a few minutes to set up an account if you don’t already have one.

If you are a parent or guardian looking on behalf of your child, you will need one of the following details:

  • The child’s unique reference number – which can be found on the annual Child Trust Fund account statement
  • The child’s National Insurance number – if they are over 16
  • If you are looking for your own trust fund, your National Insurance number is all you need

HMRC usually sends a response about your account within three weeks of your request. People who can’t find their unique reference number or who don’t have a National Insurance number should still be able to submit a request through Gov.uk, while some Child Trust Fund providers offer an online search tool.

“There are a couple of options to consider if you manage to track down a lost Child Trust Fund before it matures. The first is to keep paying into the Child Trust Fund account. The other option is to transfer the Child Trust Fund into a Junior ISA,” explains NerdWallet’s Brean Horne.

She continued: “There are two types of Junior ISA available – a Junior Cash ISA and a Junior Stocks and Shares Isa. You can open either account, or both, but can only save up to £9,000 a year in total into your JISA.”

“Junior ISAs tend to pay higher interest, so it may be worth transferring if you are not happy with the level of interest that the Child Trust Fund account pays.

“It’s also worth considering a transfer if the Child Trust Fund account provider charges expensive fees. If the Child Trust Fund is invested, it’s important to check whether there will be any exit fees if you transfer, as this can reduce the returns you get.”

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What happens when a Child Trust Fund matures?

A Child Trust Fund matures when a child turns 18. This means that your child will have total control over the money in the account.

Although it may be tempting to spend the cash, a Child Trust Fund could be a great first step towards long-term financial goals, such as saving for a mortgage deposit, buying a car or starting a fund for retirement or a rainy day.

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