A quarter of parents have failed to invest Child Trust Fund (CTF) vouchers for their children despite high-profile marketing since the scheme launched, according to government figures.
The 625,000 children affected will not lose their money, although parents will forfeit the opportunity to choose the most appropriate account for their child. Parents are given a year to invest before vouchers are automatically transferred to a default stakeholder account, which also means they lose up to 12 months of interest payments.
Almost 2.5 million CTF accounts have been opened since the first vouchers were issued in January 2005, according to figures released by economic secretary Ed Balls, with just three-quarters of parents selecting accounts. The statistics come ahead of this month’s Child Trust Fund Week, which aims to raise the profile of CTFs among hard-to-reach groups. The campaign will also focus on encouraging parents and other family members to top up funds in their children’s accounts.
Babies born after September 2002 receive £250 or £500 if they qualify for the full Child Tax Credit, with a further £250 (or £500 for tax-credit families) paid into the account when the child turns seven. Relatives and friends can top up funds to a maximum of £1,200 a year.
The government scheme, a flagship New Labour policy, has attracted criticism since its launch. Last year, industry experts claimed that two multi-million pound advertising campaigns and a further direct marketing drive had been largely ineffective (MW January 12, 2006).
Family Investments marketing director Miles Bingham has called for HM Revenue & Customs to cut the voucher expiry dates to three months from 12, so children do not miss out on interest payments and to motivate parents to act immediately.