Monday, December 15, 2008

The Elderly lady from Ramsgate

Watching the ‘Cash in the Attic’ programme on TV, my attention was drawn to the item where an elderly lady was selling up her semi-detached bungalow with the intention to live in France. Does she know what she is doing? She is obviously not very wealthy. She just wants to live in a quiet place, without hassle. She is not a person who would know anything about stock markets or finance. The opportunity exists for her to live somewhere less crowded, within a culture which may well have been a childhood dream – the cottage in the country in a village. The coming of the European Union has made it possible.

If she moves, will the British Government forget her? Of course it will. She no longer exists. She may still get the Winter Fuel Allowance, but the British Government only grants it because the Euro Commission told it that it should. She is therefore fortunate. But she is still subject to the variations in the value of the £, and any other financial restriction that the British Government could place on her.

She is better off than a friend I know – Rosemary. She retired to France 20 years ago and is now in her late eighties. She came because her daughter lives in France. Her daughter is middle aged, without any income. Now they live together on the reduced pensions Rosemary has from a shortened teaching career (as do many women who have been mothers) and the reduced old age pension. She does not get the Winter Fuel Allowance because she left England more than fifteen years ago.

Why oh why does the British Government treat Europe as some distant alien land? The ladies above are doing what their predecessors would have done in the 1930’s, Then they would have moved to Cornwall, the Dorset Coast or indeed Ramsgate from where the first lady is migrating.

The British Government should treat its pensioners identically wherever they live in Europe. This age group of more than 75 years old was born in the depression, suffered the bombing of War, served in the services or National Service, suffered the austerity of post war England, were teenagers before teenager culture existed, and now just because they choose to take the opportunity to spend their last years in the culture of Europe, their Government in Britain treats them as second class citizens.

Then because they either cannot exercise a vote or if they can the voting system offered is a useless sop to democracy, they are ignored, and dare one say despised.