The National Audit Office (NAO) has revealed that millions of teenagers in the UK have £394m in unclaimed child trust funds (CTFs).

These savings accounts were set up for children born between 1st September 2002 and 2nd January 2011, with the government paying over £2bn into CTFs for 6.3 million children during this period.

On their 18th birthdays, the account holders have access to the funds, yet some 145,000 young people still need to claim their money.

The spending watchdog found that many CTFs remain untouched for a year or more after the account holders turn 18.

As of April 2021, 320,000 CTFs had matured in the seven months since the first CTF account holders turned 18 in September 2020. Of these, 175,000 had been claimed and closed, while 145,000 remained unclaimed.

This means these teenagers have an average of £1,900 in trust funds about which they don’t know.

Click here to find a Child Trust Fund

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The head of the NAO, Gareth Davies, has said that the government must ensure that young people are aware of and can access their child trust funds, especially during times of economic hardship.

The NAO has recommended that HM Revenue and Customs incorporate CTFs into a communications campaign in 2023.

Public Accounts Committee chair Meg Hillier has stressed the importance of proactively helping people to reunite with their funds, noting that in a cost-of-living crisis, the money could be “a vital lifeline to young people, particularly those from low-income backgrounds”.

Parents or legal guardians of children born between September 2002 and January 2011 who do not know if their child has a child trust fund can check online on the website.

If a fund exists, the account holder must provide identification to access the money.