Parents who care for disabled young people will be better supported to access vital savings – including Child Trust Funds – thanks to the launch of a new easy-to-use guide.

  • new toolkit to help families access funds belonging to disabled young people
  • move to increase awareness of Mental Capacity Act and uphold its vital protections
  • guide developed with parents to fulfil pledge to tackle barriers in accessing savings

The toolkit, published today (Friday 9 June), will help parents and carers better understand their rights and what they need to do under the Mental Capacity Act to manage the finances of their child – should they lose the capacity to make decisions for themselves.

Today’s news comes in response to a government consultation published in February, which found many parents were unaware of the legal steps they have to take to be able to make financial decisions on behalf of their child as they transition into adulthood.

Funds saved in bank accounts, such as Child Trust Funds and Junior ISAs, can help families provide round-the-clock care for their child or be used to buy specialist equipment to support their needs.

To access these funds, parents need to apply to the Court of Protection or have a Lasting Power of Attorney in place – an important principle designed to safeguard the funds of vulnerable people and support those with learning difficulties or disabilities make their own decisions when they have capacity to do so.

The new guide marks the first step in the government’s pledge to raise awareness of the law to support families, providing the information they need in an easily accessible format so they can access funds quicker.

Justice Minister Mike Freer said:

Parents who care for their disabled children face huge challenges every day and we understand the frustration they’ve often experienced when trying to access their savings.

Raising awareness of the Mental Capacity Act is a vital part of supporting families, so they better understand the important and necessary steps they need to take when their loved one loses capacity – easing their child’s transition into adulthood while protecting their finances from fraud.

Banks, financial services, schools and disability charities will also be able to use the toolkit to better support families and guardians in understanding how the Mental Capacity Act works, and when and how they should apply for legal powers to access their child’s funds.

The guide has been developed with the support of parents, carers and charities to increase the understanding of the Mental Capacity Act, including:

  • changes in decision-making responsibility when a young person who lacks mental capacity transitions into adulthood
  • the relevant route to make financial decisions on behalf of a young person
  • how to prepare to make financial decisions for when a person turns eighteen

Alex Ruck Keene QC, a Barrister specialising in mental capacity, said:

I am very pleased to see that the commitment given by the Ministry of Justice in its response to the Small Payments Scheme consultation that it would continue to work to develop guidance and information to raise awareness of the Mental Capacity Act has borne fruit in this toolkit.

Awareness-raising and education is a never-ending task, but it is extremely helpful to have up-to-date and practical materials to assist families – in particular – navigate the requirements of the Act to keep the focus on the needs of those with impaired decision-making capacity.

Lorraine Currie, Freelance Mental Capacity Consultant and supporter of family member with a disability, said:

I’m really glad to see this publication, helping to explain the MCA across the ages from 16 to 18 in particular. Everyone needs to know how the rules change as children get older and what plans can be made to help navigate this. This booklet is a good start.

The Mental Capacity Act applies to anyone over 16 years old in England and Wales who lacks the capacity to make some or all of their own decisions.

It maintains a long-held legal principle that any adult must obtain proper legal authority to access or deal with property or finances belonging to another adult including their son or daughter.

This law is in place to empower and support adults with learning difficulties or severe disabilities to make their own decisions about their property or finances where they can.

It also serves to protect their bank accounts from fraud and abuse by individuals looking to exploit their vulnerability.

In the case of Child Trust Funds putting in an application to manage a young person’s finances or supporting them to make a Lasting Power of Attorney in good time will help families access their savings quickly.

The new toolkit will ensure parents in this situation understand fully the principles of the Act and the steps they need to take to help them plan better and tackle barriers in accessing these funds.

View the toolkit online

Notes to editors

  • The guide follows the government’s response to its Small Payments Scheme consultation – published in February this year – which explored whether it was possible to introduce a new scheme which would enable parents and carers to access up to £2,500 from their child’s savings without going through the Court of Protection
  • However, experts and parents warned that introducing a scheme would lead to serious safeguarding concerns and risk the finances of vulnerable people – opening their money up to fraud
  • Instead the government is working to speed up the application process for families, with initial results showing waiting times have reduced from 24 to 8 weeks
Published 9 June 2023