More than 96pc of those eligible for a Government savings scheme are missing out on £1,200 each, new figures reveal.
Help to Save was launched last September to encourage people on low incomes to put money aside for their future but statistics, released today by HM Revenue & Customs, show that just 132,000 of the 3.5 million people eligible have opened an account.
The scheme allows those in receipt of working tax credit and universal credit (who had a certain level of household earnings) to save up to £50 a month for four years, which will be topped up by the Government by 50p for every £1 saved.
The accounts can be held for a maximum of four years meaning as much as £2,400 can be saved with a further £1,200 paid in by the Government.
Anna Bowes, of Savings Champion, the specialist comparison site, said it was right that the Government should be encouraging people to save but that she was not surprised by the low take-up.
“A lot of this group will not have any spare money to save so it’s not surprising that there’s not been a huge take-up,” she added. “For a lot of people on lower incomes, saving and investing aren’t going to be very high on their list of priorities. That being said, it’s encouraging to see 132,000 people have been able to take advantage.”
Ms Bowes also questioned how well the scheme had been publicised.
HMRC said those using the scheme had already made themselves eligible for £14m in bonuses. The payments are made every two years and are tax free. Claimants cannot open another account at the end of the four-year period.
John Glen, the economic secretary to the Treasury, said: “Saving shouldn’t be seen as a luxury but as an essential part of planning for the future.
“That’s why I launched the Help to Save scheme last year, and it’s been great to see so many people using it to put money aside for themselves and their loved ones.”