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Child Trust Funds

Volume 518: debated on Tuesday 16 November 2010

3. How many child trust funds have been set up in respect of looked-after children since such funds were introduced. (23965)

Local authorities report to Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs all children coming into their care, and if a child does not already have a child trust fund, one is opened for them. Between April 2005 and April 2009, HMRC opened child trust fund accounts for 16,676 children.

Does the Minister agree that improving the life chances of all looked-after children should be an absolute priority for the Government, and will she consider supporting the amendments tabled to the Savings Accounts and Health in Pregnancy Grant Bill that address the issue of child trust funds for looked-after children?

As the hon. Gentleman is aware, we are taking legislation through the House to get rid of the child trust funds. We think it is vital to support looked-after children, but the question is how best to do that while also tackling our fiscal deficit. We have come to the conclusion that what looked-after children need is support today, and that is what we will provide. Over the spending review period, £7 billion will go to supporting the most disadvantaged children in our country, including looked-after children. He will be aware that in the Department for Education, Eileen Munro is leading an inquiry into how social care can work better, including the support of looked-after children, and finally he will be aware that my hon. Friend the Financial Secretary will be considering proposals to bring forward a junior individual savings account, from which we will specifically ensure that looked-after children can benefit.

Does the Minister agree that it is appallingly disingenuous of Labour Members to posture as the friends of child savings, having left every man, woman and child in this country with debts of more than £22,000 each?

Order. The Minister, who is a dexterous Minister, will relate her answer to the policy of the Government, not that of the Opposition.

I think it is a shame. The best thing we can do for all our children, including looked-after children, is to build a stronger country in which they can grow up and enter the workplace. I am afraid that it simply is not good enough to duck the serious questions of the day, which include sorting out not only our economy, but our broken welfare system, which does those looked-after children no service either.

Will the Minister take time to remind the House of the Government’s manifesto commitment in the May general election to retain the child trust fund for the poorest third of children in society? Does she accept that looked-after children predominantly will fall into that poorest third? Will she therefore consider the amendments to the Savings Accounts and Health in Pregnancy Grant Bill so that she can meet her manifesto commitments, or will it be a case, again, of hitting the poorest hardest?

I do not accept that we did not follow our manifesto commitment. The House had another difficult debate on Second Reading of the Bill, and yet again the Labour party seemed to want simply to ignore the challenges that our country faces. In doing so, it does the public a disservice.