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Government urged to change rules over disabled Child Trust Fund injustice

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government urged to change rules over disabled child trust fund injustice

The Government has failed to respond to proposals aimed at offering the families of thousands of disabled children a way to access locked Child Trust Fund savings for a month, despite the Prime Minister last week pledging to do everything he could to help.

Child Trust Fund providers and trade bodies handed the Ministry of Justice proposals last month which would let those with up to around £5,000 access money in cases where family members could prove they are ‘fit and proper’ to look after a disabled young person’s finances.

The proposals were devised after campaigners raised concerns that as many as 200,000 disabled young people could be locked out of their own savings as they are incapable of managing money, unless their families pay hundreds or even thousands of pounds in court fees.

Boris Johnson at Prime Minister's Questions last Wednesday was asked by Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey about the hundreds of thousands of disabled children locked out of CTFs

Boris Johnson at Prime Minister's Questions last Wednesday was asked by Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey about the hundreds of thousands of disabled children locked out of CTFs

Boris Johnson at Prime Minister’s Questions last Wednesday was asked by Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey about the hundreds of thousands of disabled children locked out of CTFs

But This is Money has been told the Government has failed to respond to the new proposals even though they were submitted a month ago, leaving individual Child Trust Fund providers unsure as to whether they are breaking the rules by allowing parents’ access to the money.

This is despite the fact Boris Johnson, responding to a question in Parliament last Wednesday from the Liberal Democrat leader Sir Ed Davey, said he would do ‘whatever I can to help in the particular case that he raises’.

Davey, whose own 12-year-old son John is also disabled and has a Child Trust Fund, had raised the case of an 18-year-old with a neurodegenerative condition who wanted to use his CTF money to buy a specially adapted tricycle but could not as he was locked out of his Child Trust Fund.

In a letter to the Prime Minister, the Lib Dem leader called for the Government to ‘urgently’ change the rules ‘to allow parents to access Child Trust Fund and Junior Isas where the child lacks the mental capacity to do it themselves.’

Currently, parents must make an application to the Court of Protection so that they can be appointed as a deputy for their child’s affairs, which can cost £365 plus up to £2,500 in solicitors’ fees. 

One mother who wrote to This is Money after we reported on the problems facing those affected last month said she felt her son, now 18, who has a genetic condition, was ‘being penalised for having a disability.’

The Ministry of Justice has failed to respond to proposals put forward by Child Trust Fund providers a month ago to try and help disabled children get access to their funds

The Ministry of Justice has failed to respond to proposals put forward by Child Trust Fund providers a month ago to try and help disabled children get access to their funds

The Ministry of Justice has failed to respond to proposals put forward by Child Trust Fund providers a month ago to try and help disabled children get access to their funds

The costs in many cases can wipe out the amount held in a trust fund, while campaigners fear up to 25,000 children a year, or 200,000 over the next decade, could have to go through the court system, leading to a huge backlog.

Andrew Turner, from West Sussex, who has a disabled son, said he was told it could ‘take up to a year’ to secure approval from the courts due to coronavirus delays.

The problem of accessing the money dates back to the launch of Child Trust Funds in 2005, even though the parents of disabled children were given extra money until 2011 by the Government. 

It also affects holders of Junior Isas, which replaced CTFs, and many parents were never told their child would never be able to access the money at 18.

Industry bodies are seeking to try and help partially solve the problem for many families by allowing them to access the funds without a court order, in cases where a CTF is worth up to around £5,000 and parents can prove that their child lacks mental capacity and that they are fit and proper to manage their finances on their behalf.

Sir Ed Davey wrote a letter to Boris Johnson in which he urged the Prime Minister to work with campaigners and enact proposals which would 'end this injustice' for disabled young people

Sir Ed Davey wrote a letter to Boris Johnson in which he urged the Prime Minister to work with campaigners and enact proposals which would 'end this injustice' for disabled young people

Sir Ed Davey wrote a letter to Boris Johnson in which he urged the Prime Minister to work with campaigners and enact proposals which would ‘end this injustice’ for disabled young people

Jon Lee, head of investments at the mutual One Family, which runs around a quarter of Child Trust Funds, said: ‘Industry bodies agreed new industry guidelines around a month ago and presented them via government to the Ministry of Justice and HMRC. 

‘These take a pragmatic and proportionate risk-based approach that will mean the court process can be avoided in a number of situations.’

He said the mutual was currently following those guidelines itself, but that there had been no assurance from the Government ‘that there would be no challenges if this guidance was followed’, which he called ‘frustrating’.

But campaigners have also called for the law to be changed.

A petition started by the law firm Renaissance Legal has now received nearly 5,200 signatures, 700 of which have come since This is Money reported on the Child Trust Fund problems last month

A petition started by the law firm Renaissance Legal has now received nearly 5,200 signatures, 700 of which have come since This is Money reported on the Child Trust Fund problems last month

A petition started by the law firm Renaissance Legal has now received nearly 5,200 signatures, 700 of which have come since This is Money reported on the Child Trust Fund problems last month

Philip Warford, the managing director of law firm Renaissance Legal, which has been raising awareness of the problem since 2016, told This is Money that the current solution proposed by savings providers could leave behind those with pots bigger than £5,000 and whose CTF provider had not opted in, as well as the fact it was not legally binding.

His proposal, which was backed by Sir Ed Davey last week, would be to expand rules which let parents access money in cases where a child has less than six months to live, provided they get confirmation from a doctor, to cover those who lacked mental capacity.

In his letter to the Prime Minister, the Lib Dem leader said the two proposals ‘would make the process far quicker, simpler, cheaper and fairer for families with disabled children.

‘Crucially, they would mean families no longer have to go to court so their child can spend their own money.’

The Government has previously insisted the barriers are necessary to protect vulnerable children from being exploited.

This is Money has contacted the Ministry of Justice for comment.

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Northern regions battle to host new National Infrastructure Bank

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northern regions battle to host new national infrastructure bank

The race is on across the north of England as leaders compete for their regions to become the seat of two economic hubs.

Rishi Sunak yesterday unveiled plans to set up a National Infrastructure Bank that will be based in the North.

The move comes on top of the Chancellor’s proposal to build a Treasury output in the region. 

Chancellor Rishi Sunak yesterday unveiled plans to set up a National Infrastructure Bank that will be based in the north

Chancellor Rishi Sunak yesterday unveiled plans to set up a National Infrastructure Bank that will be based in the north

Chancellor Rishi Sunak yesterday unveiled plans to set up a National Infrastructure Bank that will be based in the north

Northern leaders are now pushing the case for their areas to host the two hubs, with the North East and North West thought to be pushing particularly hard.

The infrastructure bank will fund projects that promise to help the UK reach its ‘net zero’ carbon targets by 2050 and its ‘levelling up’ agenda.

The plans were outlined as part of Sunak’s wider spending review, which laid out how the Government aims to repair the UK economy in the wake of the Covid crisis.

The bank will be up and running by next spring but Sunak did not say where it would be based or how much money it will have.

Conservative MP Jake Berry, former Northern Powerhouse minister and head of the Northern Research Group of MPs, said: ‘There’s likely going to be a lot of stiff competition from regions and leaders.

‘What’s important is that it’s being placed in the North, which shows a commitment by this Government to the region and the levelling up agenda – and a move away from Government jobs and departments focused almost entirely on London.

‘It is also good news when you consider the recent announcement that 22,000, well-paid civil service jobs will be moving out of London and the South East.’

The Chancellor has also promised to build a Treasury outpost in the North.

Designs for the ‘economic campus’ are thought to have been submitted for buildings in areas including Darlington and around Teesside, but a final location has not been confirmed. The plans are some of the firmest commitments yet that the Government will shift power out of London.

Pressing his case: Middlesbrough mayor  Andy Preston

Pressing his case: Middlesbrough mayor  Andy Preston

Pressing his case: Middlesbrough mayor  Andy Preston

Ministers have also promised to put £4billion towards a fund, which could back local projects in all regions.

While the competition to attract the bank and Treasury outpost will be fierce among MPs, mayors and councils, the race could also create friction if ministers opt to place them in major cities.

Ben Houchen, Conservative mayor for Tees Valley, which is a major hub for heavy industries, said: ‘It’s important that the Government takes the bold decision to base the bank outside of a northern city.

‘Having officials from the bank based outside one of our metropolitan centres will give them a new mindset and allow them to understand the whole country so much better and the different challenges our towns and villages face – which would not happen if the bank was set up in a city like Newcastle, Leeds or Manchester.’

Andy Preston, the independent mayor of Middlesbrough, said: ‘Levelling up is decades overdue so it is fantastic to finally see it being tackled. 

‘Middlesbrough has suffered more than anywhere from political neglect and incompetence. We deserve to host this new bank. 

‘The Government should invest in Middlesbrough now and I guarantee them a huge and positive return.’

Under Sunak’s plans, an additional £27billion will be spent next year on infrastructure such as roads, cycle paths, railway lines and power stations, in many areas tying in with the green strategy Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced last week.

The push is part of plans to plough £100billion into areas such as schools, hospitals and banks in total next year, and £600billion over the next five years. 

The Government, in rebounding from Covid, wants the UK to ‘build back better’ by improving motorways, laying better internet cables and building more wind farms.

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Taxpayer faces £40bn bill as cost of emergency loan schemes soar

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taxpayer faces 40bn bill as cost of emergency loan schemes soar

The taxpayer could be saddled with a £40billion bill as thousands of loans handed out under emergency government schemes turn sour.

The Treasury watchdog confirmed that losses under the Bounce Back loan scheme, the Coronavirus Business Interruption Loan Scheme (CBILS) and the larger CLBILS will be greater than feared.

In the worst-case scenario, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) thinks the taxpayer could end up covering £40billion that companies fail to repay.

Loans burden: Treasury watchdog the Office for Budget Responsibility  has confirmed that losses under emergency business loan schemes will be far greater than first feared

Loans burden: Treasury watchdog the Office for Budget Responsibility  has confirmed that losses under emergency business loan schemes will be far greater than first feared

Loans burden: Treasury watchdog the Office for Budget Responsibility  has confirmed that losses under emergency business loan schemes will be far greater than first feared

This is much worse than the £33.7billion of losses the watchdog predicted as possible in July. 

Even under the OBR’s more moderate base-case scenario, losses will hit £29.5billion – £12.6billion more than was predicted. 

It comes as banking industry bosses warn that billions of pounds of Government money is being lost to fraudsters.

Virgin Money chief executive David Duffy said yesterday that his bank had decided to only hand out Bounce Back loans to existing customers in order to reduce fraud.

He added: ‘There is an environment out there where we know there’s been a lot of fraud, and what we’ve been very happy to do is lend to those customers who we have a relationship with and know.’

The Bounce Back loans, aimed at businesses with turnover of up to £200,000, involve banks carrying out few checks but come with a 100 per cent government guarantee.

The scheme has so far lent £42.2billion to 1.4m small companies. 

The Treasury was warned multiple times about the risk of fraud, but pushed ahead because it worried businesses were going to the wall during lockdown and desperately needed the cash.

Part of the reason that losses under the three emergency loan schemes are now expected to be higher is because the British Business Bank (BBB), which is administering the schemes, expects more businesses to go bust. 

The government-backed BBB estimates that a staggering 5 per cent to 20 per cent of the large businesses who have borrowed under CLBILS could default on their debt.

Less surprisingly, it thinks 10 per cent to 25 per cent of smaller CBILS borrowers and 35 per cent to 60 per cent of Bounce Back borrowers will become unable to pay back their debt. 

The Government has agreed to cover 80 per cent of any losses which lenders suffer under the CBILS and CLBILS schemes and 100 per cent of losses under the Bounce Back scheme.

The other reason why losses are higher is because the schemes have been extended.

When Prime Minister Boris Johnson imposed a second lockdown for England at the start of this month, Chancellor Rishi Sunak pushed back the deadline for applications under the three loan programmes from the end of November to the end of January, to help businesses stay afloat.

The OBR now thinks total borrowing under the three schemes could hit £87billion by the time they close, up from the £65.5bn which had been lent on November 15.

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Use British steel for £27bn infrastructure spree, industry chiefs urge

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use british steel for 27bn infrastructure spree industry chiefs urge

Industry chiefs have urged the use of British steel for infrastructure work.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak plans to spend an extra £27billion on projects next year, and billions more in coming years on roads, railways and power stations.

Huge volumes of raw materials will be needed and steel bosses want the Government to prioritise procuring metal from the UK, to create and sustain jobs and help repair the damage that Covid has wreaked.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak plans to spend an extra £27bn on projects next year, and billions more in coming years on roads, railways and power stations

Chancellor Rishi Sunak plans to spend an extra £27bn on projects next year, and billions more in coming years on roads, railways and power stations

Chancellor Rishi Sunak plans to spend an extra £27bn on projects next year, and billions more in coming years on roads, railways and power stations

UK Steel director general Gareth Stace said: ‘The huge levels of promised spending must now deliver the largest possible return fortaxpayers’ money by maximising the UK content of these major projects.’

It comes a week after Prime Minister Boris Johnson unveiled a green strategy to build eco-friendly homes, wind turbines and nuclear power plants.

Both plans could reinvigorate ‘foundation’ industries that produce the raw materials.

UK steel has struggled over the past few years and some firms, such as British Steel, have collapsed. 

The UK makes 7.3m tonnes of steel a year. Around 32,600 people work in the sector.

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