By Ramandeep Kaur – Mum to Harry (15) who has Down’s syndrome
As a parent of a young lad with learning disabilities, I am hugely disappointed that the government have decided not to implement the proposed Small Payments Scheme for parents/carers and young people who wish to access their Child Trust Funds.
I opened my son Harry’s account when he was born and I was not informed at any point that I would need to go through the Court of Protection to access his money when he turned 18. There was no information in the packs sent out to parents and I feel that I was ill informed. Had I been aware of this, I would most likely not have opened the account for him. He has £7000 sitting in an account which I will now have to pay up to £1000 in court fees to be able to access. The forms are long and quite complicated and I am having to ask others to help me complete them. As someone who has lots of experience in filling out forms, even I have been struggling to fill them out, so I worry that many people will find themselves in the same situation. If we ask a lawyer to support us, this will cost even more money.
We are in a cost of living crisis and many families will struggle to find the initial £371 which is required when submitting the application to court. I feel that this will lead to families on low incomes deciding not to access the money. This is not fair on the person who the money was saved for. For us, the money was to be used for new technology for Harry and to fund access to youth clubs. Harry also wanted to spend money on buying some cool clothes for his Bollywood dancing! It would be so sad if he could not spend money which was saved by me, his dad and his grandparents.
I understand the main issue of safeguarding processes in order to protect the young person from fraud. However, I think the risk of this is incredibly small and that most parents/carers only want the best for their children. The Mental Capacity Act is an important piece of legislation which protects Harry but in this instance, but I feel that parents should not be penalised under the law as they are the ones who have saved this money and really do not want to see their loves ones missing out on using it.
I feel strongly that the government should have tried to make the process easier for us and at the very least reduced the court fees which are really costly. I also feel as though families like mine are being discriminated against. The government is simply passing responsibility to charities like LDE who will be told to raise more awareness of the Mental Capacity Act and the Court of Protection so that parents can prepare for this eventuality when it arises. I think this is unacceptable.