“We often hear about stepping outside ourselves, but rarely about stepping outside our generation.”

 Criss Jami

The news that 220,000 young people under the age of 25 have been unemployed for six months or more – the highest number since 2016 – draws attention to the need to focus on the young as we recover from the pandemic. Following over a year of disruption in schools and universities, we must restore hope and opportunity to avoid the risk of a ‘lost generation’.

That disruption is particularly acute for those whose critical GCSE and ‘A’ level experience has been damaged by the lockdown, and every opportunity must be taken to re-balance this.

For those born on or after 1 September 2002 there is such an opportunity, by making the endowment of their Child Trust Fund a reality: but for millions of disadvantaged young people, they have yet to hear of their good fortune. So this week we look at The Share Foundation’s plan to recover this scheme, and we ask: will you lend a hand to help connect these young people with their money?

It's now well over two years since The Share Foundation began its campaign to recover the Child Trust Fund (CTF) scheme. This followed its discovery of the huge disconnect affecting about two million out of the six million young people who own these accounts, and the fact that the greatest disconnect impacts the most disadvantaged young people.

Here are the key facts and figures of the scheme: an individual account was opened for almost every child born in the UK between 1 September 2002 and 2 January 2011: over six million accounts. 1.8 million of these were opened by HM Revenue & Customs and allocated to one of 14 ‘Revenue-Allocated’ account providers because the parent(s)/guardian had taken no action by the child’s first birthday. This applied to almost all children in families in receipt of Child Tax Credit, and the rate of disconnect in this segment is c. 85%. The accounts are now typically worth c. £1,500 for the older young people from disadvantaged backgrounds , and the aggregate value of these disconnected accounts is therefore over £2 billion.

These estimates have been borne out by recent account provider reports that the accounts of over 58% of those who have already reached their 18th birthday since 1 September 2020 (nearly a quarter of a million young people thus far) are as yet unclaimed.

When the oldest young person with a CTF reached 16 in September 2018, The Share Foundation hosted an event at the House of Commons. Then in March 2019, it supported former MP Helen Goodman in bringing a debate on CTFs to Westminster Hall. Later that year, it launched the CTF Ambassadors scheme, inviting volunteers to visit schools and local events to explain how the account works and how to locate it. In November 2019, one of its Ambassadors, Fiona Ross from Havant, hosted a radio interview with me focused wholly on the CTF.

In early 2020, The Share Foundation launched the CTF search facility designed specifically for young people aged 16 and over who were born in the CTF age range, after extensive discussion with HM Revenue and Customs. This focus on 16 years of age is due to the facts that:

  1. just after their 16th birthday, a young person is sent their National Insurance number, a key identifying piece of information; and
  2. from their 16th birthday, a young person is allowed to take control of their own account (although they can't withdraw the money until they are 18 years of age).

A new partnership between The Tracing Group and The Share Foundation has now developed a matching process called ‘The CTF Register’. It stores the data on all relevant ‘addressee gone away’ and ‘never registered’ CTF accounts held by participating account providers: thus far, account providers responsible for administering over four million out of the six million CTFs issued are participating in this initiative. When a young person registers on findCTF.sharefound.org to find their account, their data is electronically checked with the CTF register.

As the CTF register comes into full operation, The Share Foundation wIll significantly raise the profile of findCTF.sharefound.org by introducing a series of virtual events for young people. Designed for up to 1,000 participants once in full operation, these will be professionally managed and comprise purpose-built videos, break-out room activity with CTF Ambassadors, and polling: as much participation as possible. They are expected to run for about 40 minutes each and will take place regularly over the months and years ahead: the youngest CTF recipient reaches 18 years of age in January 2029. It’s hoped that these virtual events will be publicised by schools, local authorities, and youth organisations across the United Kingdom.

The Share Foundation’s aim is to ensure that as many young people from disadvantaged homes as possible find their accounts and have the opportunity to become more financially aware and confident as they reach adulthood – virtual events are a great way to ensure that no-one is left out.

Would you help to make this a reality, by becoming a CTF Ambassador yourself and/or helping The Share Foundation to publicise these virtual events?

The Share Foundation is a strong advocate of inter-generational rebalancing, and the Child Trust Fund is one of very few examples in the world of a determination to put this strategy into practice. The Share Foundation’s CTF recovery campaign is therefore a significant opportunity to prove the effectiveness of the CTF programme. Let’s hope that, as a result of The Share Foundation’s work, Governments both here in the United Kingdom and overseas will introduce similar schemes on an ongoing basis.

Gavin Oldham OBE

Share Radio