Dear Sir, I read with interest your article and comment in the Majorca Daily Bulletin Wednesday, November 15, regarding the building of a care facility by the Norwegian Government for older Norwegian residents in Spain.

The cost of nursing home care in many British-run establishments in Spain is generally less than one would expect to pay in the UK. However, benefits are not available from British Government sources to subsidise a British subject here when funds are such that he/she is unable to pay the cost. Currently some of the shortfall is made up by grants from UK Charities (Age Concern España is instrumental in bringing thousands of £s annually to Spain from UK Charities). However, generous as these grants may be, they are limited by the particular charity's charter and there is still a considerable shortfall which has to be borne by a nursing home. There is little chance of compensation from other sources.

Many years ago Age Concern España negotiated a special rate with the British-run nursing home in Majorca, Harbour View, for persons in need of specialised care and whose funds did not permit them to pay the rate appropriate for their care. Eight beds are normally occupied by persons whose state of health (normally severely physically or mentally disabled) precludes them from being repatriated or who have no family or family who do not respond to a call for assistance. Whilst the original intention was for these beds to be occupied by British subjects subsidised by UK charities, over the years when there were vacancies, there were requests from Germans, Dutch and Mallorquines who were happily accommodated.

The policy of successive British Governments has been that pensioners retiring outside the UK but within the EU receive only State Retirement Pension and War Disablement Pension. Attendance Allowance may be payable to eligible British citizens living outside the UK but within the EU should the beneficiary be in receipt of it before leaving the UK. Benefits such as Income Support (minimum income guarantee is the term the Government and others use for the over 60*s) or Housing Benefit are not considered exportable benefits.

Attendance Allowance unlike other benefits is not means-tested. ”It is a benefit for people who need personal care, or need supervision, or need someone to watch over them because of physical or mental illness or disability. It does not depend on National Insurance contributions, is not affected by saving or income, and will not normally affect or be affected by other benefits or pensions received.” (Source: ”Your Rights” published by Age Concern, England).

BUT the only people who can claim are those who are over 65 years of age and habitually resident in the UK. Retired British government employees and military personnel receiving employment pension for serving Queen and Country are subject to UK tax regardless of where they live. However, by reason of being resident in Spain, they are not eligible for Attendance Allowance (or any other non-exportable benefits). One might be forgiven for thinking that they would be eligible but no -- they are not habitually resident in the UK.

One might also be forgiven for thinking that since one is able for the first 20 years of residence in Spain to vote in a British General Election (electing a MP in one's previous place of residence) this should convey rights that go with it.

This is a problem not solely confined to Majorca. It affects all British expatriates throughout Spain. Our Age Concern Organisations in other areas where there are large numbers of British expatriates, encounter clients in need of personal care or supervision on a daily basis. Local councils provide what they can but at the end of the day it is left to Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and caring fellow expatriates to provide the answer.

British Military Charities have calculated that (unless someone was in a reserved position) it is likely that a British subject over 73 years of age saw military service during World War II or is the dependant relative of someone who did.

Last weekend saw a grateful country remembering those who had fallen. It is time for a grateful country to remember those who fought and survived.
There is something that every British expatriate in Spain can do to help.
They can help by supporting the NGOs in their work and by supporting their lobbying of major political parties in the UK to rethink their policy on the payment of benefits to British citizens resident outside the UK but within the EU.

Regards, Judy Arnold-Boakes
President, Federation Age Concern España


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