British retirees living in squalor abroad

The Foreign Office has voiced its concern that thousands of British citizens retiring to ‘paradise’ abroad, end up living alone in poverty and poor health due to inadequate preparation for their new life.

Bruce McIntyre, British Consul in Malaga, says of the situation, “Sadly now, in Malaga, we spend much of our time dealing with elderly British nationals who moved out here ten or fifteen years ago and now cannot manage alone. Sometimes a partner has died and the other is too old or infirm to go out and buy food; sometimes people have made bad property investments or have not budgeted their pensions sufficiently and are living in extreme poverty. British retirees need to realise that not many European countries have welfare provisions like the UK - there are often no old people’s homes, no district nursing, community care or meals on wheels. We provide help where we can but there are just a few steps you can take to ensure that it doesn’t come to this.”

Steve Jewitt-Fleet of the Foreign Office, says “It is astonishing how many fit and healthy retirees make no plans or provisions of any kind for their future health and wellbeing when they retire abroad. The majority of British nationals do not register with local authorities when they move and often the FCO often only hear about these people when they get into serious difficulties. We are not trying to warn people off retiring overseas – we just want to advise people make sensible precautions in order to enjoy their retirement abroad.”

The benefits of moving abroad are clear. The cost of living is usually, lower than the UK. The climate is more conducive to a healthy and far less stressful lifestyle.
Some Brits are finding life abroad difficult because they simply haven’t done their homework. They find themselves alienated in a foreign culture, the dream of a home in the sun has come with a whole host of unexpected complications that they are used to getting sorted instantly at home and the infrastructure is significantly different to what they are used to.

The Foreign Office has produced a guide called ‘Going To Live Abroad’ For further information and help on planning your move, check out the government’s website:

How best can people prepare for moving abroad?

The Foreign Office advice is:

  • Before You Go
  • Properly research your destination. Find out about the local laws and customs
  • Find out what the Foreign Office can and can't do for you by reading the Guide to Support for British Nationals Abroad
  • Learn some of the local language. You may be moving to a British enclave but you'll still need to deal with the local authorities, the local health service, and all the things you have to deal with at home but in a new language
  • Work out your retirement income. You must be clear of your financial situation, allow for inflation and exchange rate fluctuations. As part of this get a state pension forecast from the DWP
  • Find out about your tax liability abroad from Customs and Revenue
  • If you are buying property treat the purchase as you would in the UK. Seek professional legal advice and do all appropriate searches

When You Arrive

  • Register with the local authorities, this will ensure you have access to local welfare and health services
  • If it is an EU member state or a member of the EEA you must apply for a residence permit within three months of arrival
  • Register with the British Consulate if appropriate
  • Open a non-resident foreign bank account. You'll need this when dealing with local expenses and bills
  • Find out about your welfare rights abroad - you may be able to claim a benefit of that country. The benefits you receive in the UK may also be affected by your move
  • Find out about health costs abroad - If you go to a country in the EEA and you are entitled to UK state pension, incapacity benefit at the long term rate, widows’ benefits or bereavement benefit, you may need form E121 to claim free or reduced cost medical care as a local
  • Make a will. If you die abroad without a will this can lead to all kinds of legal difficulties
  • Ensure your passport is valid

The FCO estimates that around 13 million British Nationals live abroad and that 350,000 people are moving abroad every year. Many expatriates will either be ineligible for free healthcare, or simply prefer to avoid the queues by buying their own health insurance.

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