As restrictions lift across the UK hundreds of thousands of school leavers will be deciding what to do next.
With travelling largely off the table many will be deciding whether to take the plunge and go straight to university or perhaps strike out on their own with a business venture or new job.
And having a lump of cash to support their decision will be a welcome relief.
Teenagers who turned 18 after September 1 2020 now have direct access to their Child Trust Fund for the very first time.
The funds were set up by the former Labour government in 2002 to provide all children with a nest egg with which to embark on adult life, without parental control.
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HMRC figures show over 700,000 accounts worth £1.6bn ($2.2bn) will mature in the next year alone.
But a huge amount of these matured accounts – an estimated 58% – are yet to be claimed despite their average value being £1,500.
"It is a big challenge and a big problem. As people grow up they move and become less accessible. There is a huge amount of work to do on this," said Gavin Oldham OBE, chairman and founder of The Share Foundation.
What is a Child Trust Fund?
All parents and guardians of children born between 1 September 2002 and 1 January 2011 inclusive received a voucher from the government.
Children born between 1 September 2002 to 31 July 2010 received at least £250 at birth. This rose to £500 for low income households.
All of these children also received an additional £250 on their 17th birthday. Lower income families could claim up to £500.
Children born later, between 1 August 2010 and 1 January 2011, received £50 at birth, or between £100 and £500 if they were of limited financial income. No additional payments were given at age seven. All payments stopped from 2 January 2011.
Parents could invest the money in a range of funds but if they did not redeem the voucher within a year it was automatically placed in a revenue allocated account by the government.
Children can take control of the funds at age 16 and withdraw the money at 18.
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How do I find a fund?
All funds can be tracked down whether they were set up by parents/guardians or the government.
"If you’ve lost track of your child’s CTF start by checking if you have any paperwork. If you didn’t get round to making a decision, the government would have chosen a stakeholder CTF for you. If you don’t know where that is, you can track down your CTF through the government website – as long as you have parental responsibility for the child," said Sarah Coles, personal finance analyst, Hargreaves Lansdown.
There are two main ways to find your child's account. The first is via HMRC by signing into the Government Gateway, or signing up for an account.
You will need the child's unique reference number, which can be found on an annual Child Trust Fund statement, or their national insurance number.
Once the online form is complete HMRC will inform you of the provider holding your child’s fund. You should receive a response within 15 days, but bear in mind this may be a letter asking for further information such as a birth or adoption certificate.
An alternative option is to use the ShareFound simplified search process which does not require you to set up a Governm,ent Gateway account.
And if you know the child trust fund provider but have lost access details you can find them on the government website.
How much will be in the fund?
The initial fund amount varied between £50 and £500 depending on the child's date of birth and the household income.
Some children also received an additional £250 to £500 on their seventh birthday. All payments stopped from 2 January 2011 when the scheme was axed.
At least £9.3bn is sitting in CTFs, of which around a quarter, over £2bn, is still unclaimed. The current value of each of these accounts, if no additional funds have been added, is between £996 and £1,992.
Parents were encouraged to put regular savings into these accounts, from as little as £10 a month up to £4,368 a year.
The amount in a fund will depend on what the government put in, whether parents added to it and the returns the fund received.
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