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Can the Help to Save scheme help you?

Is saving money a luxury for some? John Glen MP, the Treasury Minister, tells us why he introduced the Help to Save scheme last year.

This is a guest post by John Glen MP. All views expressed are John’s own and not necessarily shared by Which?.

Putting away savings is an important part of life, providing people with greater financial stability and helping them to better support themselves and their loved ones.

Yet as the Treasury Minister responsible for personal savings policy, I appreciate that for many on smaller incomes putting away even just a tenner each month can sometimes feel like a challenge.

That’s why I introduced the Help to Save scheme last year to make sure everyone has the chance to save for the future.

What is the Help to Save scheme?

Around 3.5 million people on working tax credits or Universal Credit are eligible for the scheme which gives savers a 50% bonus on every £1 they put away over a four-year period.

Read the Which? guide to Help to Save accounts

In comparison, high street banks offer a typical interest rate of 1-2 per cent on savings. To date, around 100,000 people have signed up to the scheme, depositing over £13 million into their accounts, and I want to spread the word further so more can benefit.

The scheme can be accessed via HMRC’s mobile app. Savers can deposit between £1 and £50 every month, with the bonuses paid after two years and at the end of the four years. So if you were to save the maximum £2,400 you would earn a £1,200 bonus.

One worry that some have voiced with me on savings accounts is being unable to easily access their money when they need it.

With this scheme, savers can make as many withdrawals as they need to. At the end of the two years, they get the first 50 per cent bonus – up to £600 tax free – paid into their bank account (not the Help to Save account).

They can then continue saving for another two years, again saving up to £50 every month, and get another bonus paid at the end of the four years, if they have paid in the maximum amount.

Stabilising your personal finances

Of course, anyone who has debts should prioritise paying those off before saving, as that’s always the best course of action to stabilise your personal finances.

The scheme is available to new customers up to September 2023, so there’s plenty of time left to take advantage of it. For many, the scheme is already providing future returns and benefits.

It’s my strong opinion that saving should never be seen as a luxury, but instead as an essential part of planning for the future.

Encouraging and supporting savings across all income groups is important and can help ensure people don’t need to turn to expensive, and sometimes exploitative, money lenders as a last resort.

So if you want to save for that family break, put money away for a rainy day, or even start saving for next Christmas, consider taking advantage of Help to Save.

This was a guest post by John Glen MP. Do you support the government’s Help to Save scheme? Is it a useful solution for those looking to better manage their finances? Let John know your thoughts in the comments.

Comments

Just a question. If people who already receive benefits do not need all of them – because they can set aside £50 a month regularly – and are then given another £1200, is limited tax payers’ money really going to the right people? Would it perhaps be better directed at the poorest pensioners, who not only cannot save any money but perhaps cannot even heat their homes properly? But, as I say, just a question about the basis of the scheme.

I’m a bit confused. The average young person who needs working tax credit in order to survive will, after paying rent, electricity, gas, insurance, telephone, food and whatever they need to simply be clean and presentable will be unlikely to have £50 per month spare, to save.

We have initiatives to help young people to start saving, including savings accounts and junior ISAs, so it’s logical to have the Help to Save Scheme for adults. This website offers the caution that the first priority should be to pay off debts: https://www.moneysavingexpert.com/savings/help-to-save/

I don’t know of any savings accounts for young people or junior ISAs, that pay an AER (interest) of nearly 25%. A tenth of that maybe. But then, the £1.2 bn 100 000 people already signed up to this scheme could get is not the treasury’s money, it is ours, and could have other uses? Perhaps to help old people on small pensions pay off their own debts for energy, maybe.

I think the principle of saving money is what is matters for children rather than the interest rates. When I was a child I was encouraged by my parents to save pocket money and I remember buying my first 15 shilling Savings Certificate at an early age.

I am strongly in favour of tackling the gap between rich and poor in our society, but while we wait for that to happen, the rich get richer.

Where people are in debt, perhaps they should be expected to make a convincing case to borrow more money.

At my secondary school one of the masters acted as an ‘agent’ for National Savings and once a week pupils would buy savings stamps to stick in a little book for later redemption or purchase of savings certificates. There were two types of stamp enabling savers to achieve the level of savings they could afford – a sixpenny one [6d = 2.5 pence now] or a half crown one [2/6, or two shillings and sixpence, = 12.5 pence now]. The savings stamps could also be bought at post offices so uncles and aunts could also give money presents that could not be squandered on sweets and toys. This encouraged the savings habit and built up a useful fund. In today’s climate of low inflation it might be worth reintroducing such a scheme – in electronic and digital form for the modern youngster, of course.

The sixpenny savings stamp carried a winsome portrait of a the young Princess Anne while the higher value one showed a serious-looking Prince Charles.

DerekP says:
9 April 2019

Of the folk that I know to be on Universal Credit, most, if not all of them seem to just struggle from one debt crisis to the next, as their very meagre incomes don’t give them enough to make ends meet. Hence I doubt that any of them will have money to put away as savings. (But if any of them do have money to save, they might be betting off saving it with a local credit union so that, if and when they need to borrow money, they can do so at non-usurious rates.)

I often think that those responsible for setting the amounts paid under our various state benefits should also try living off those benefits.

Agreed.

Who stands to short term benefit from all the money saved? Not kids piggy banks with no interest rate incentives. (Do they still exist?)

I seem to recall immediatey following the 2007/8 crash, banks were offering 2 year savings bonds with a high interest rate to help replenish their somewhat depleted coffers.

The reality is, some unfortunate people in this country are more familiar with food banks, an issue in dire need of addressing by all members of HM Treasury.

According to the Trussel Trust, which supports a network of 1,200 food banks, more than 14 million people are living in poverty in the UK – including 4.5 million children.

The Trust provides a minimum of three days’ nutritionally-balanced emergency food to people who have been referred in crisis, as well as support to help people resolve the crises they face. Between April 2017 and March 2018, food banks in their network provided more than 1.3 million emergency food supplies to people in crisis, a 13% increase on the previous year. [Trussel Trust website]

There are different definitions of poverty, relative poverty and absolute poverty, and the numbers are not far apart in both cases, with 13 million in relative poverty and 14 million in absolute poverty. Absolute poverty means you cannot afford the basic needs of life – food, clothing and shelter. This is a more stable and objective measure but is not used by the government which uses relative poverty. A household is in relative poverty if its income is below 60% of the median household income, and this will vary according to economic changes. It is open to perverse outcomes since you can be ‘lifted’ out of poverty simply because people around you become poorer.

Irrespective of the definitions and interpretations, the figures are appalling – and this at a time of fairly low unemployment by historic standards.