“A politician thinks about the next elections — the statesman thinks about the next generations.”

 James Freeman Clarke

Eight months from this Wednesday, the oldest recipients of Child Trust Funds will reach 18, and they’ll be able to deploy those funds - if they know where their accounts are. The proceeds could be sufficient to provide them with a real springboard to adult life: helping them to learn to drive, to prepare for a first job, or to pave the way to higher education.

Nine years from this Thursday, the youngest recipients of Child Trust Funds will turn 18 and this great experiment, which Gordon Brown and Ruth Kelly referred to as ‘asset-based welfare’ but which in truth provides a springboard for disadvantaged young people throughout the United Kingdom, will be complete.

However of the six million accounts in issue, worth in total over £9 billion, two million are lost to the young people concerned, and it is among the most disadvantaged that the predominance of ‘Addressee Gone Away’ and unregistered contact accounts is the greatest. So, linking the accounts to these young people as they turn 16, at which age they are allowed to take direct control, is the nine year vision of The Share Foundation, the registered charity which runs the Child Trust Fund and Junior ISA schemes for young people in care throughout the UK, on behalf of the Department for Education.

It’s a vision which must go viral to succeed, and must be pursued at many different levels and through many different outlets. In Share Radio we want to help make it happen, so we ask - is there anything you can do to help?

How do we reach 16 and 17 year-olds right across the United Kingdom, in the most disadvantaged situations? Social media is clearly a must, and The Share Foundation is building such a campaign. It will be ready to implement in late January/ early February - would you help raise its profile, would you help fund it?

Schools will be critical, and there are a number of Child Trust Fund Ambassadors already waxing lyrical in their local areas. One such is Fiona Ross from Citizens Advice in Havant, who arranged and hosted an interview with me to help raise the profile. Would you consider becoming a CTF ambassador? If so, please register your interest through The Share Foundation’s special website https://www.ctfambassadors.org.uk/ .

Churches may not see many teenagers within their walls these days, but are well connected to local secondary schools and have a yearning to reconnect with young people. The deanery network is the ideal focal point - are you involved in your local church, would you help?

Government is, of course, vital and we need the new Conservative Administration to take ownership of this huge opportunity to bring hope and opportunity to disadvantaged areas across the United Kingdom. We’re hoping that the Centre for Social Justice will encourage this, and we are setting up a series of Questions in both Houses of Parliament to raise the profile. The Westminster Hall debate last March, led by former MP Helen Goodman, laid down the initial challenge; but, if Boris is indeed to repay the trust of voters in the Labour heartlands by 'levelling-up', he cannot afford to ignore the Child Trust Fund. As 19th century American author and theologian James Freeman Clarke said in the quote at the start of this commentary, statesman need to think seriously about the next generations: and all Child Trust Fund recipients will be adult voters in ten years’ time.  

So - please help Share Radio to help The Share Foundation in any way you can. While Mark Carney and Greta Thunberg are of course right to set the global vision for this century as tackling climate change, this is a worthy UK-centric vision for the 2020s. If we can show real success for the Child Trust Fund initiative, it could be used across the world to introduce a more egalitarian form of capitalism, and provide much-needed inter-generational rebalancing.

With best wishes for the New Year


Gavin Oldham OBE

Share Radio