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Parents forced to pay thousands to access disabled children’s bank accounts

Libby South
Libby South Image credit:

A disabled girl has been locked out of her savings account because she is unable to take money matters in her own hands.

Libby South (pictured above), 19, has Potoki-Lupski syndrome which has left her with sight loss and the mental age of a child.

Her mum Alison is the teenager’s sole carer, she told a national newspaper she has been forced to pay £5,000 in legal fees to reinvest her daughter’s child trust fund savings.

Libby currently has £2,400 in her account, but it will cost her mother at least double that in court fees.

“I tried to open Libby a bank account when she turned 18 in September 2020,” Alison told The Mirror.

“That was when I first discovered she couldn’t have one unless I got a deputyship for her,” she said.

“I have also been paying into Libby's child trust fund account for the past 18 years. It is now worth around £2,400 but again I have been told she can’t get it unless I get a deputyship.

“I have tried to look into it but have been told I have to go through a solicitor which costs up to £5,000 - money I just don’t have.

“I think it is disgraceful that because my child has special needs she is discriminated against in such a way.”

It could had been a different story, but ministers recently turned down a potential new law which would had made it easier for parents of severely disabled children access their saving accounts.

Families must go through a 59-page court protection order and pay legal fees in order to take charge of a child with complex needs.

If the new law was accepted the process would have permitted parents with disabled children who have less than £5,000 in their account access their account on their behalf completing a five-page application form and the consent of a medical practitioner.

There is some good news though, families who cannot afford court fees can now apply to have the cost waived or refunded.

Nigel Banfield, policy manager, at financial wellbeing service, TISA, said: “Whilst TISA is disappointed the government did not want to pursue the clause change to the mental capacity act, we watch with interest their next move in making it easier to access child trust funds for parents of children with no capacity.

“In the meantime, for parents struggling with the current Court of Protection route, the industry has an alternative process which may be suitable. Please contact your provider for more information.”

There is also, in some situations, the option to avoid court action and the parent to apply to be a deputy for their child.

Paul Bridgwater from OneFamily said: "Every case is different, but in some circumstances it is possible for us to release the funds.

"We can do this by considering the documents and identification that the person managing the young person's financial affairs may already have. We put this process in place in September and have been working with other providers to gain a more widespread adoption of this pragmatic approach.

"It is reassuring to see child trust fund providers and industry bodies pulling together to make things easier for affected families."

Three in five disabled children cannot access their child trust fund because they are considered vulnerable.