Laura Suter, head of personal finance at AJ Bell, has commented on the National Audit Office’s investigation into Child Trust Funds.
She said: “This new report lays bare the huge issue of unclaimed Child Trust Funds (CTFs), with almost £400 million sitting in accounts that have matured and gone unclaimed, with an average value of £1,911 each. Many parents and children aren’t aware they even have the account, or don’t know who the money is with or how to track it down. On top of that, many CTF providers are charging huge sums for managing the accounts, eating into the money.
“More than half the money in child trust funds that has matured has been left unclaimed, up to April 2021, and £394 million of money is sitting unclaimed in accounts. Considering the total value of unmatured child trust funds is almost £10 billion, that means £5 billion of money could ultimately go unclaimed.
“More than a quarter of CTF accounts were set up by the government, because parents failed to do so within the 12-month window. This highlights why so many are unclaimed – as the parents either weren’t aware or won’t remember that an account was even set up for their child, let alone where the money is now.
“Any child born between 1 September 2002 and 2 January 2011 who hasn’t already got details of their account should track it down. You can go to gov.uk and fill in a form to trace the money, although you need a government gateway ID.
“While the government only paid £250 into the first accounts (or £500 for low-income families) even without any further contributions this money could have grown to a decent amount. A £250 investment in the FTSE 100 at the start of 2006 would be worth £640 today, not accounting for any charges, while £500 would have grown to £1,281.
“However, many of these accounts have very high charges, meaning that all the time they go unclaimed providers are making huge sums that eat away at the capital. The report estimates that CTF providers are taking £100 million a year from savers in charges on the accounts, a figure that will increase as the accounts rise in value. That means on average charges of 1% a year are being levied on the funds.
“Once you’ve tracked down the money you can work out what to do with it. For many people it will make sense to transfer it to a Junior ISA, where the charges will likely be lower and you’ll have a much bigger investment choice. If you’re transferring the CTF you need to move over the entire sum of money to a Junior ISA, you can’t have both types of account open at once. But helpfully the amount you transfer won’t count towards your annual Junior ISA limit. This means that you can transfer the entire CTF into a Junior ISA and still add up to £9,000 to it in the same tax year.”