When my son was little, I invested in a Child Trust Fund with NatWest, with money I received from the Government.
He turned 18 in January, but so far we have not been able to get hold of the £3,350 inside.
He started trying to get hold of the money at the start of February. I helped him as has autism, and is also still in school every day.
NatWest told him to use an online portal, but when he tried to register it told him he couldn’t, as he was not 18. He is.
Trust fund trials: Our reader and her son have been trying to get hold of money saved with NatWest – but so far they have had little success (stock image, posed by models)
I then tried to call NatWest on his behalf, and was placed on hold for over an hour on three occasions.
When I requested a ringback, I answered only to be told there was no one to take my call and the line went dead. The online chat also proved unhelpful.
I raised a complaint online but it was never acknowledged. I then contacted the Financial Ombudsman. The Ombudsman said as my son is 18, he needs to raise a complaint.
I understand this, but I think it is ridiculous that he should have to go these lengths to access his investment.
I want NatWest to give my son his money. My son wants it to give him his money. How can he get what is rightfully his? D.K, via email
Could my child have a forgotten trust fund?
Child Trust Funds were available to all children born between 1 September 2002 and 2 January 2011.
The Government sent vouchers of between £250 and £500 to parents to start them off, with children from lower-income backgrounds being given £1,000 – though these amounts were later scaled down.
Parents could keep topping them up if they wished, and they would also earn interest. The accounts started maturing in 2020 as the first children turned 18.
When an account matures, the bank should write to the child to inform them. They can either take the money in cash, invest it as an Isa or split it and do both. If they don’t respond, the bank should transfer it to an Isa until they do.
But many parents still might not know they even have one. Of the 6.3million child trust funds set up, around 40% were opened by the Government on parents’ behalf when vouchers went unused.
The easiest way to see if your child has such an account is to visit HMRC’s website.
Helen Crane, of This is Money, replies: I’m sorry to hear about the rigmarole you and your son have had to go through to get your hands on your own cash.
You put your trust in NatWest to keep hold of your child’s pot of money, but since the fund matured on his turning 18 you have faced a Herculean battle in order to get hold of it.
After you wrote to me initially, you told me you had even resorted to sending the relevant documents to the bank via recorded delivery – not something you’d expect to be doing in 2022.
It’s frustrating as your son is still studying and could no doubt use the extra funds.
It is also outrageous that, aged 18 and having been diagnosed with autism which would no doubt make the process stressful, he faced having to complain to the Ombudsman to get his money.
I’m afraid to say many other customers are likely to have an uphill struggle accessing their Child Trust Funds.
When I contacted NatWest, it told me the delay was because of a seven-fold increase in the number of people trying to claim their money.
Why the sudden spike in demand? Because NatWest had sent out an email at the end of last year, prompting customers who had unclaimed Child Trust Funds to redeem them.
Which would have been a helpful reminder – if they actually had the staff to deal with the transfers.
In the midst of a cost of living crisis, they might have predicted that such a reminder would lead to an influx of requests from parents and teenagers trying to claim this forgotten windfall.
After I contacted NatWest and told it about your nest egg nightmare, its team were quick to return your calls and your son should have now received his £3,350.
But thousands of others will still be faced with agonising waits to access their own cash.
Future fund: Child Trust Funds were created in 2002, and used to be a popular way of saving up a pot of money for a child to access once they hit adulthood
A NatWest spokesperson said: ‘We are currently experiencing an extremely high volume of customers getting in touch to redeem child trust fund accounts and are sorry for the delays that some customers have experienced with this process.
‘The safety and security of our customers’ accounts is of paramount importance and these accounts are particularly vulnerable to attempted fraudulent claims, which is why we have a detailed checking procedure when redeeming a child trust fund account.’
It added that it had now increased the ‘resource’ available to deal with Child Trust Fund claims, and that it expected wait times to return to normal within a few weeks.
Ferry nice: Cruise firm Cunard offered Ken and his wife the option to rebook when their trip clashed with her surgery – despite their usual rules stating only 25% would be refunded
Hit and miss: This week’s naughty and nice list
Every week, I look at the companies who have fallen short when it comes to customer service, and those who have gone above and beyond.
Hit: This week, reader Ken dropped anchor in my inbox to share a good review of cruise operator, Cunard.
He and his wife booked their first-ever cruise for September 2021, hoping to travel to Norway’s Fjords.
It was cancelled due to Covid, but, still looking forward to their Scandinavian soujourn, they took a voucher and re-booked for May 2022.
But the virus was set to disrupt their holiday plans even further. Ken’s wife was booked in for a hip replacement in March 2022, which had to be put back when she herself caught Covid.
The rescheduled date for the operation was just two weeks before their trip in May, which wouldn’t allow her enough time to recover.
Under Cunard’s rules, the couple would only get back 25 per cent of the cost of their trip if they cancelled – money they couldn’t a-fjord to lose.
Ken wrote to the firm to see if there was anything it could do. It offered them a voucher for a later cruise, giving his wife time to get ship-shape after her procedure and properly enjoy the holiday.
Hip, hip hooray – a company going an extra nautical mile is always welcome in this column. I wish your wife a speedy recovery and hope you enjoy your long-awaited trip.
Damage done: Storm Eunice hit the UK in early 2022 and caused damage to thousands of properties, including the home of our reader
Miss: Reader H.G got in touch after he had to make an insurance claim when the roof of his home was damaged in Storm Eunice in February.
Luckily – or so he thought – he had buildings and contents insurance with Policy Expert. He made a claim for the repairs, which a roofer estimated could cost £20,000.
So he was surprised to receive a letter saying that the policy was void.
The letter said he gave incorrect information at the time of purchasing and renewing, but H.G could not see how this was the case.
CRANE ON THE CASE
Our weekly column sees This is Money consumer expert Helen Crane tackle reader problems and shine the light on companies doing both good and bad.
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When he probed further, it appeared the reason was that his father had a County Court Judgment on his name, which was not declared.
While this is true, it should not be relevant as his father does not live at the property.
H.G says his father has lived and worked in the UAE for more than a decade, and only visits the UK for a week or two each year.
He is worried that he may have mentioned to Policy Expert during a previous call that his father was in the house, as he spoke to them during one of his short visits.
Therefore, he appealed Policy Expert’s decision, providing evidence of his father’s UAE residency and passport – but the claim once again rejected.
I contacted the insurer to query this, and ask whether it would allow the customer to listen to a recording of the phone call that he believes may have been at the root of the problem.
While it expressed sympathy for the damage, it said it would not reconsider without further evidence.
A spokesperson said: ‘It is important that all policyholders take care when completing applications – particularly when providing information on behalf of other occupants – as incorrect or incomplete information can render their policy invalid.
Surprise: H.G was shocked to see that his policy was void, which Policy Expert claimed was down to incorrect information provided
‘This is not a decision we take lightly and only after thorough examination of all information available to us, the policy remains void. The policyholder has time to provide further evidence to support their claim and can escalate concerns to the Financial Ombudsman Service, if required.’
It added that it checks out any claims against public data sources. H.G said his father received some post to his address, which may have complicated matters in this regard.
It did, however, say that it would provide H.G with a recording of his calls so he is able to check what was said.
H.G has since told me he is obtaining Border Force documents showing his father’s entry and exit from the UK, as well as giving Policy Expert copies of his flight bookings.
While it is of course right for insurers to check out claims thoroughly, they have a responsibility to explain what their decisions are based on – especially when someone’s home is at stake.
I am glad that H.G has been given the chance to listen to the calls and provide more evidence, and hope that – providing his claim about his father is indeed genuine – he will be able to see the decision overturned. I’ll keep you posted.