Children's charities want government to change track on care

Children's charities want government to change track on care

By agency reporter
10 Mar 2011

Children's charities Barnardo's and Action for Children want the Government urgently to rethink their plans for children in care, ahead of this year's budget.

From 1 January 2011, the Government abolished the child trust fund ISA savings account (CTF) for every child in the United Kingdom.

The CTF accounts matured as young people turned 18 and the loss of this nest egg was a particularly painful blow for those children in the care system.

The Government has saved £500 million pounds per year by abolishing the child trust fund ISA and have instead replaced it with a voluntary ISA scheme for parents to pay into if they wish. For the majority of children in care who have little or no contact with their parents, they are likely to receive nothing.

The two charities have put a proposal to the Government today which would cost just £6.6 million per year and would ensure that children in care retain their modest savings.

The joint proposal, set out in a report entitled ‘On our own two feet’, states:

* Any child who enters local authority care in the UK and remains in care for a minimum of 13 weeks would be eligible
* After 13 weeks the responsible local authority send the child’s details to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) who will then open an account
* HMRC make an initial payment of £250
* The responsible local authority notify HMRC if the child spends more than 26 weeks of the next year in care. HMRC will then make a further contribution of £100. The same applies to any subsequent year the child spends in care until they leave care
* Looked after children who currently have the Child Trust Fund would also receive annual top up payments if, as above, they have spent more than 26 weeks in care

Barnardo’s chief executive Anne Marie Carrie declared: "We’re not talking about a lot of money here. The cost of running MP’s second properties in 2009-10 was £6.8m, but the effect this money can have for care leavers is huge. These children have been through so much instability and emotional turmoil that they are placed firmly at the bottom of the pile almost by default."

She continued: "They would only be supplied with a few hundred pounds but we must remember most of these children have left the care system with nothing. That money could help fund further education, a few driving lessons or a suit for a job interview."

"The Government as their corporate parent has a moral obligation to ensure that when these young people are making that huge transition from child to adult, often alone, they have as many of the same chances as any other 18 year old as possible," said Ms Carrie.

Action for Children chief executive Dame Clare Tickell commented: "Leaving care can be a frightening time for young people - they are often alone and fending for themselves at the age of 18 or even younger."

"It adds insult to injury for children who cannot live with their parents, to then lose out on a few hundred pounds that would make a huge difference to them and help ease their lives into adulthood," she said.

"We owe it to them to make sure that they, like many of those who are not in care, have savings that help them to plan their future and stand on their own two feet as adults," concluded Dame Clare.

[Ekk/3]

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