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Help to Save scheme launch pushed back

Help to Save scheme launch pushed back

The government has pushed back the roll out of its savings initiative for low earners by six months. 

The full introduction of Help to Save has been moved to October 2018, after initially being scheduled for an April launch.

The scheme was announced on 11 January 2016, and is designed to encourage people on low incomes to build up a rainy day fund.

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People will be able to pay up to £50 a month into a Help to Save account and earn a government bonus of 50 per cent on their contributions to be paid after two years. 

At that point they can decide whether to continue saving for another two years to a total of £2,400 yielding bonuses of up to £1,200.

 A trial of the scheme will begin in January inviting gradually increasing numbers of working tax credit claimants and will open to universal credit claimants in April.

People will then have five years from the end of the trial to take advantage of the scheme.

Sarah Coles, personal finance analyst at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: "A six month delay in rolling out Help to Save isn’t a great endorsement of the level of planning and detail that went into the proposal when it was first announced in January 2016.

"We can only hope the scheme is worth waiting for. We have seen with the Junior Isa, Lifetime Isa, Help to Buy Isa and pension savings that when you give people an incentive to save, it does encourage them to do so."

Providers in the past warned the scheme could interfere with auto-enrolment and could potentially be the next mis-selling scandal.

The idea of the new scheme is for people to be able to use the money for emergencies, so they will be able to make withdrawals before the end of two years. 

The bonus will be based on the highest balance held in the account over that time.

Help to Save will be open to about 3.5 million people, according to Hargreaves Lansdown.

To qualify they will either need to be claiming working tax credits or universal credit, and have a household income of at least £542.88 in their last monthly assessment period.

Tom McPhail, head of policy at Hargreaves Lansdown said: "It is good the government is seeking to encourage saving and in particular that it is rewarding those who struggle to save, but it needs to be part of an overarching strategy to promote saving and investing rather than the current piecemeal approach which all too often involves giving with one hand while taking with the other."

carmen.reichman@ft.com