Britain's missing billions: Could you be owed lost pension and benefit payments?

Former dancer Tara, who found over £100,000 in lost pension pots, spoke to ITV News's Chris Choi.

New data shows millions missing out on money. I’m hoping that what you are about to read could help you get what you are entitled to. I know much of what I tell you is likely to be shocking: in the unforgiving grip of a cost of living crisis millions of people are missing out on billions of pounds. Our busy complex lives mean we often lose track of money we are due. Think about your life - it’s highly likely you’ve changed jobs, moved house, women getting married usually change their names and divorce can lead to yet more upheaval. At the same time financial firms often change their names and addresses as they merge, demutualise or rebrand. It’s been a problem that’s been creeping up on us and in many ways it’s now getting worse. Now we have figures showing how big the problem is.

Tara explains how she lost 10 to 11 of her pensions after a name change

New research for ITV Tonight from asset-hunting service Gretel suggests an estimated £89 billion in lost funds, including bank accounts, insurance policies, pensions and Child Trust Funds. That’s billions of pounds spanning about 28 million lost accounts.

It’s been calculated that there are over 2.8 million missing pension pots, with the total value running into tens of billions of pounds.

The problem is deepening because auto-enrolment of workers into pensions is leading to more and more lost pots.

If you think you’ve lost touch with a pension here are the top tips:

  • Gather information - most pensions must send you a statement each year. Can you find any of that paperwork and get hold of the old policy number or address of the pension firm?

  • The government’s pension tracing service can be a good starting point. Enter the name of your previous employer and as much other information as you have. It will then often (not always) give you details of the pension provider so you can contact them. It operates for private pensions and workplace pensions.

I spoke to former dancer Tara who lost 10 to 11 of her pensions after a name change. With hard work and determination, she’s managed to track down several of those missing policies.

The Child Trust Fund scheme was a government policy designed to give youngsters a good financial start in life. Here too, people are missing out. There are almost a million unclaimed funds worth £1.7 billion.

Parents could open the trusts using an array of financial firms and if parents didn’t do so the government itself opened the accounts. That happened in about 25% of cases.

Skip forward a couple of decades and we have all this money but very little knowledge, advice or information. What’s making this whole thing more urgent is that young people can access their child trust funds age 18 and more and more are reaching that age.

Use these free online calculators to check how much benefit you are eligible for

To help trace a missing Child Trust Fund there is a government website and other free tracing services online like Share Found. You’ll be asked to enter the child’s name, date of birth, NI number and address. There is no need to bother with services that charge you money. HMRC says the average balance in a Child Trust Fund is £2,100. New research given to our programme by benefits consultancy Policy in Practice shows £23 billion in unclaimed benefits each year. It’s been described as a national scandal by one senior welfare expert. We also have a new figure from RNIB showing 80,000 people with sight loss in the UK are missing out on disability benefits. Use a benefits checker to understand your entitlements - there’s one on the website and it’s also carried by many charities and Citizens Advice. To get an accurate benefits check you will need to have information on your income, savings and any childcare payments and details of any benefits you are already getting.

Then there are all those dormant bank accounts. You can use the My Lost Account website to trace them, as well as Premium Bonds. The site brings together data from UK Finance representing the banks, along with the Building Societies Association and National Savings and Investments. It can take up to three months to get the information. There is more than £79 million in unclaimed premium bond prizes - that’s about two million individual wins. So if you trace a lost premium bond, check if you’ve won. National Savings and Investments have a prize checker app and webpage. This is an issue for the officials that regulate the financial firms, at the moment there’s only a very broad outline of what they have to do, largely it’s up to the firms themselves to decide how much effort and resources to put in. Surely with this huge unclaimed figure that has to change? For the full missing money report, watch ITV Tonight: Claim Your Cash? Britain's Hidden Fortune on ITV1 tonight at 8.30pm

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