This article was first published in the Hackney Gazette. To read the latest edition, see here.
Nearly a quarter of Hackney’s children live in poverty. When housing costs are taken into account, this figure rises to almost half. These figures are appalling, and pressure continues to mount on families with the cost of living crisis. I regularly speak to parents who are worried about their children’s futures, and how they can support them to get on in life in the current climate.
Hackney children have now lived under Conservative government policies, including austerity, for 13 years. Young people are concerned about the impossibility of ever owning their own home or affording to rent in Hackney. So many teenagers continue to live with their parents well into adulthood, often contributing financially for basic necessities, making it difficult to save for the future. The now abolished Education Maintenance Allowance was often used just to keep the electricity topped up for the last days of the week.
One thing I am urging young people to do is check whether they have an unclaimed Child Trust Fund. They could have a nest egg that they are currently unaware of. Millions of pounds are currently languishing in unclaimed funds.
Child Trust Funds were introduced in 2005 by the Labour Government. They were tax-free savings accounts, automatically set up for people born between 1 September 2002 and 2 January 2011. The idea was to encourage families to save for their children’s future. Each account had at least £250 or £500 for the poorest children deposited into it by HMRC and was locked until the account holder turned 18. The money in the account will have increased as interest was added each year.
However, nearly one million young adults have not reclaimed their Child Trust Fund, no doubt including a significant number of Hackney residents. I suspect that many don’t know about the accounts or have lost track of them. The Public Accounts Committee, which I chair, recently published a report on this issue. The Committee urged HMRC to do more to contact young people who haven’t reclaimed their fund.
The brilliant young people of our borough will face a myriad of challenges as they move forward in life. I don’t want to see anyone miss out if they are entitled to claim this money as they step into adulthood.
If you or someone you know may be eligible to reclaim a Child Trust Fund, please visit www.gov.uk/child-trust-funds/find-a-child-trust-fund for more information.