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Government responds to child trust fund improved access campaign

March 2023

We’ve been campaigning since 2020 for a change in law that will make it easier for child trust fund holders who don’t have mental capacity to access their own money.


To protect people from financial abuse, the Mental Capacity Act 2005 says that families must get legal authority to access money on behalf of an adult without mental capacity.

This process involves applying to the Court of Protection, which can be costly and complicated. The person applying for access will also need to fill out 59 pages of complex forms and find files of medical documentation to prove what they’re saying is true.

Currently, this rule applies no matter how small the amount of money is.

Therefore, if a child trust fund holder doesn’t have mental capacity to access their own money, their family will often need to go through this lengthy, potentially expensive process before the money is released.

The problem is that when there is only a small amount of money in the account, this application process is such a burden that, according to disability charities, many people decide not to bother.

It’s estimated that around 200,000 people who have child trust funds don’t have the mental capacity to access their money themselves.

We believe it’s entirely unfair that people are missing out on money that is legally theirs, particularly during a cost-of-living crisis.

The change we’d like to see

At OneFamily, we’ve found a way to release child trust funds to families by asking them to provide documents that they already have. Many other providers have done something similar.

However, there are still many families unaware of this option.

We’ve campaigned for a “small payments scheme” which will mean third parties (ie families) face a simpler process to gain access to small amounts of money on behalf of someone who doesn’t have mental capacity.

Government consultation response

A consultation asking people to give their opinions on this change closed on 12 January 2022.

A response was finally published last week, which acknowledges that “the Court of Protection Property and Affairs application forms are lengthy and complex” and that “the time taken between completing the application to the final order being made is too long and disproportionate for the sums involved”.

It also states that the consultation showed many families and caregivers aren’t aware of the Mental Capacity Act or that they need to be given a legal right to access their family member’s money on their behalf.

However, the government unfortunately didn’t feel a small payments scheme was the right approach. Instead, the response states that it is “working with the judiciary to make improvements to the process for applying for a Court of Protection property and affairs order”.

This means that while the families and carers of those young people who lack mental capacity will still need to apply through the Court of Protection process, work will be done to simplify this process.

Read the consultation response in full here.

Next steps

According to the government response, it’s making the forms involved in the process simpler and supporting ongoing digital pilots to speed up the application process.

The government also reports it will be raising awareness of the Mental Capacity Act with families and carers who it might impact.

In the meantime, OneFamily will continue to support these young people in accessing their savings by releasing funds against documentation that their families may already hold on their behalf.

As two of the biggest child trust fund providers, OneFamily and Foresters Financial have combined forces to write an open letter explaining the issue and calling for the government to provide a response to the consultation.

This letter was highlighted in a sizeable article in the Times about our campaign.

OneFamily and Foresters Financial UKs’ joint open letter


With inflation currently at 10.7% and the cost-of-living crisis having a negative impact on everyone’s lives, we would ask that your readers consider the plight of an estimated 200,000 young people who are being locked out of their child trust fund (CTF) savings only because, in legal terms, they lack the mental capacity to manage their own affairs.

This is a loss of approximately £400m in money that could be spent on UK goods and services, money that could be used to improve these children’s lives.

There is an urgency for the government to act now to resolve this problem.

We represent two of the largest providers of CTF accounts with more than 2.5 million accounts. CTFs are long-term tax efficient savings accounts for children that were introduced by the then government in 2005, backdated to September 2002, and were available until 2nd January 2011.

In 2005, parents were given an initial voucher of £250 or £500, depending on their household income, to invest in a CTF for their child. These accounts began to mature from September 2020, with an average balance of around £2,000.

Of the more than six million CTFs opened, about 200,000 belong to children without mental capacity.

When these children turn 18 their families are faced with a daunting, and potentially expensive, legal process to access their own savings.

Whilst costs associated with Court of Protection applications may be waived, there are other associated fees such as practitioner fees for completing documents or the possibility of needing to pay for deputy fees or a surety bond that are confusing and worrying for families.

There are also significant delays at the Court of Protection and the system is so complex that only a few tens of families have successfully unlocked their child’s fund so far.

Both OneFamily and Foresters Financial have been campaigning since 2020 to remedy this problem.

When the Ministry of Justice launched its Small Payments Scheme consultation in November 2021 we had hoped that matters could quickly improve. Sadly, though, the government has repeatedly delayed its response to the consultation, which finished a year ago.

Meanwhile, thousands of young adults are missing out on their own money.

Many of these young people have degenerative conditions and the money that is trapped in their CTFs could purchase an important piece of life-improving equipment or be used to create happy family memories.

Disability charities advise us that some families would rather abandon the money than have to go through the stressful complexity and cost of applying to the Court of Protection.

CTF providers and The Investment and Savings Alliance (TISA) have worked together to create a Fair Access Protocol to help these families.

This uses paperwork that parents or carers may already have to enable them to access their child’s money, and this process has helped 738 families to unlock their OneFamily or Foresters Financial savings without having to apply to the Court of Protection.

But we need a government-led solution to this issue to effectively signpost families to the options that may be available to them to access the money without going through the Courts.

We are concerned that a straight-forward answer to this problem for these families is being delayed further.

In the meantime, many millions of pounds belonging to vulnerable young adults, are being withheld during a cost-of-living crisis.

With best wishes,

Teddy Nyahasha, CEO, OneFamily
Nici Audhlam-Gardiner, CEO, Foresters Financial UK

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Hope for families whose children have mental incapacity

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How we’re helping disabled teens access their child trust funds

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How to find a child trust fund

There's six million child trust funds in the UK and we hold more than any other provider so we're a good place to start if you're trying to trace yours.