The Ministry of Justice has published its final response to the ongoing consultation regarding the Mental Capacity Small Payments Scheme, a streamlined process that would have allowed withdrawals and payments of up to £2,500 from cash-based savings accounts including Child Trust Funds and Junior ISAs; without the need to get permission from the Court of Protection.
Devastatingly for those families of children who can’t access their own money due as they do not have the mental capacity to do so, the Small Payments Scheme – that we hoped might be put in place to help families access Child Trust Funds up to a certain value without needing to apply for a court order – will not be moving forward.
Although the consultation response contains astounding figures from those who took part in the consultation, including; 87% of the consultation responses said the scheme was needed and 89% of respondents said it would be helpful to families, all the outcome of the report highlights is a simplification the current court-based system as the way forward, without any specifics or timescales.
Philip Warford, Managing Director at Renaissance Legal, comments “We founded the Child Trust Fund Access Campaign back in 2016, years before the first CTFs would mature, as we could see that the issue was effectively a ticking time bomb for families with a disabled child.
The outcome of the Ministry of Justice Mental Capacity Small Payments Scheme Consultation, published on 28th February, is a devastating blow to disabled children and their families. The decision not to introduce a scheme that allows access to small savings amounts without a court order, will mean that thousands of young adults will never access money that was saved for their future.
Our longheld view, and that of our fellow campaigners, is that all disabled children ought to be able to access savings that were put aside for their future, and provided this can be done in such a way that provides adequate protection and safeguarding of the child and their money, then we see no reason why the government cannot work with the finance industry and Child Trust Fund providers on a creative solution.
The staggering statistic from the published consultation is that the vast majority of respondents (87%) said the scheme would have a ‘positive’ or ‘mostly positive’ effect on those without mental capacity. We are therefore disappointed that there has been little attempt to try and find a solution that provides adequate security in line with MCA principles, whilst helping thousands of families”.
The current Court of Protection process creates an enormous barrier to families accessing their Child Trust Fund and has meant that only a handful of families have successfully applied. The process, and timescales involved, are disproportionate for the value of the vast majority of funds.
“We work with hundreds of parents and carers every year and the verdict amongst these families is unanimously bleak. Those families who have embarked upon the Court process to obtain a Deputyship Order have found the process to be drawn out and costly at best, and at worst utterly impenetrable. The vast majority of families have simply decided not to bother which means that savings made for their child’s future will never be accessed
Parents of children with disabilities live enormously complex, challenging lives, and it seems wholly unjust that a simpler process should not be in place for them”.
Further debate in the House of Lords
On Tuesday 2nd March, the Child Trust Fund Access campaign was debated for a sixth time in the House of Lords.
Lord Young of Cookham, a longstanding supporter of the campaign for the need for urgent reform to how disabled children can access their own savings when they turn 18, questioned the outcome of the Ministry of Justice Consultation and pressed the need for greater progress in respect of increasing awareness and changes to the Court of Protection application process.
The debate can be viewed here:
What can you do to help?
The Child Trust Fund Access online petition has in excess of 6600 signatures and has continued to grow steadily throughout the campaign. The petition is a key element of the campaign, demonstrating the number of families who are disadvantaged by the current system and who feel passionate that change is essential.
We still need to encourage all parents – not just those with a disabled child or who are directly impacted themselves – to pledge their support to the campaign as it helps apply continued pressure.
If you would like to sign the petition, you can do so here.
Keep up to date
If you would like to read further updates about the Child Trust Fund campaign, you can do so here: https://www.renaissancelegal.co.uk/blog/category/blog/child-trust-fund-access/
Social media is an important channel, and the best way to keep up to date is on Twitter, and by following the #ChildTrustFundAcccess hashtag.