Sunday, December 20, 2015

Hard up in Europe

Correspondence on the plight of  British Pensioners in other E U countries.

Administrator    - Brian Cave – le Fourquet, Gourdon France 46300

Initials of the senders are given below each mail. All the senders were content to have material publicised as long as personal details were kept confidential.
Useful links for where to get help.

1  --- 10/02/2012 20:03
Good Evening Mr Cave.
Just as I was yesterday, I am typing Emails sitting up in bed. I am  fully clothed in three jumpers, two pairs of trousers and a track suit. 
My dear husband, similarly dressed, is tucked up beside me.  He is eighty-six, and suffers from epilepsy and  a certain amount of mental confusion.
Outside the temperature is minus 2 degrees, and is expected to fall to minus 10 degrees tonight - a big improvement on the
minus 14 degrees we had last night.

EDF have decreed that those of us who use the TEMPO system should have ten, 'red days' over the last two frozen weeks,
meaning that those of us who live on the not overgenerous Old Age Pension can afford to use electricity only very sparingly.

We retired to bed at three o'clock this afternoon, when my husband found that crouching over our log-burner became too much strain
on his back.  The only room we can afford to keep warm is our bedroom, where we can use our electric blanket
plus a paraffin stove for warmth.  Our house has an antiquated central heating system which has broken down - and we can't afford to repair
or replace it. 
You will guess that we are, of course, Equitable Life Annuitants.
My husband served his country during the war,and worked all his life thereafter without claiming a day's unemployment benefit.
He finally retired at seventy, and  was actually proud that he had had the foresight to take out a policy with such a
well respected company.

  Because we loved France, we exercised our right to move and live, freely, within the E.U., and settled here in the SW.
We probably should have claimed for the Winter Heating Allowance before we left UK sixteen years ago, but at the
time we lived in a centrally heated home, and felt we did not need any extra allowance.

We do not expect  privileges not granted to other elderly British Citizens; but are exceedingly bitter that we are excluded
from allowances which are readily available to other Brits.
Please keep up your good work!
L. W.

2 -- Hello Brian  (received 02/04/12)
I have just read your piece in the Algarve daily news. I would like to add my comments regards the winter fuel payments. My husband and I moved to the Algarve  30th Jan.2006 he was 68 I was 60 (earlier in jan that year) we were both receiving state pensions only, he was also receiving winter fuel payment. He died in 2008 and the winter of that year I applied to have the winter fuel payment changed to my name as I was receiving state pension before we moved here. The DWP refused to give me the allowance as I was not living in the UK in the qualifying week during November 2006 (10 months after my 60th birthday)and therefore was not entitled to it. I found this very hard to accept as I could not find any reference to this rule on the DWP website but there is nothing I can do about it so I am having to survive on my pension of £5300 per year. I have several friends here who all get the allowance some who moved here in their 50's but who have not told the DWP that they moved here so they can still go back to the UK to get free health treatment and medicines! I find it very hard since the pound lost so much value in the winter I have to wear extra clothes and eat lots soups as other foods are too expensive. I would go back to the UK but I cannot sell my house here and used up all my savings long ago.
S. R.

3 -- 15/02/2012
Like your correspondent, we moved to France sixteen years ago, the year before the Winter Fuel Payment was instituted.  Since then, we have met many British expats, most of whom arrived in France more than six years after ourselves, and they, of course, do receive this allowance.  Whilst we do not, of course, hold this against them; good luck to them - I'm glad they get it. But it is this blatant discrimination by the British government, resulting in the older, more frail (and in many cases, poorer) pensioners being the ones to whom this vital heating allowance is denied and this really upsets me.  It beggars belief and I am absolutely astonished that those in successive governments have been unable to see this, not to mention their breaking of European rules (as outlined by the British Expats Association, Spain, and yourself, on many occasions). 

Like most of our friends, when we arrived in France aged 60, we were in good health.  However, as we all know, as the years go on, many of us are beset by various illnesses and the frailty of old age.  I have had several operations and many investigations in hospital for various internal and ophthalmic problems.  My husband had a hip replacement three years ago and two other operations since then.  He was diagnosed with lung cancer a year ago, for which he is being treated with chemotherapy.  He has suffered horrific and debilitating side effects and I am, of course, at the age of 77, his only carer.  We have no family, either here or in the U.K.  There have been improvements as well as setbacks in the progress of his illness and further chemotherapy is planned.
As you can imagine, this past year has been extremely hard on both of us and it is only with the support of the excellent French health professionals as well as the kindness of our friends and neighbours (both French and British) that we have managed to cope.   We live on a joint pension income of 12,000 pounds sterling per annum and have to draw on our very modest savings to supplement this.   Because of our low income, we downsized seven years ago to a tiny, one-bedroomed house which my husband converted from a carpenter's workshop but his illness and treatment cause him to feel the cold in the extreme and, in spite of the size of our house, I dread to think what our heating bill will be this Winter.  It is so dreadfully unfair that we and others in our situation are not allowed to receive the Winter Fuel Payment  from the British government when our compatriots do!  And, of course, there is nothing we can do about it as, having lived in France for more than fifteen years, we are now disenfranchised as well!
S.E R.
4 -- December 30th 2014
I’m a 74 year old British Pensioner, I have health problems - high blood pressure placing me in a high risk category of heart attacks and strokes, requiring beta blocker medication for the rest of my life; and I’m a thrombophilia sufferer requiring anti-coagulants for the rest of life, which thin my blood and make me more vulnerable to extreme temperatures.  So, it doesn’t matter whether I live in Blarney, Bristol, Bologna, Bordeaux or Barcelona, cold weather will always affect me.  OK if I live in Bologna, Bordeaux or Barcelona, I may get more daytime sunshine, particularly in the winter, but night-time in those countries will be much colder than Blarney or Bristol!  A British Pensioner is still a British Pensioner wherever he/she chooses to live within the EU!
 Following  from emails after Christmas 2014
5 -- December 31st 2014
Thanks for this Brian - just read my EDF meter which tells me that my bill for 2 months will be just under 400€ and it will get even colder over the next 2 months. I'm 70 and I really do feel the cold more and more with each passing year.
A. Email initials with-held
6 -- January 5th 2015  Copied from The Anglo-Info forum site for Normandy.
I came here in 2005, rushing out of another European country and settled into rural life with difficulty. At that stage I had health and a car. I had a major car accident in 2010 followed by cancer  in 2011 (from which I am supposed to be in "remission", it might be stabilising) and am now alone trying to deal with the ridiculous situation that I am far from anywhere and have nothing to eat and also have difficulties eating and can't stand being on my own . This has nothing to do with the local people who on the whole are kind to me, although not really available to deal with this, but everything to do with me. I see no solutions to this situation at all.  I am known to the local social servIces and the local community. The supermarkets are 11 to 18 km away, there is no-one to take me to it and in any case I have been known to walk into and out of the local supermarket without buying anything. Also home deliveries are just about possible but not for the quantities I need. There is one bus a day from a two km walk to the village to one of the (moribund) towns.  I am at least three hours' drive from anyone who posts on this site   (south of Rouen).  I tried to buy some frozen things with the cleaning lady who gone away for more than a week now. It is insufficient and I am going hungry.
My house is cold.  I am 64, taking the cancer drug femara (not chemotherapy) and going mad here. My doctor is both on strike and doesn't want to know particularly. Also being "big" going down to a mere 91 kilos recently I have literally nothing much to wear apart from outsize t shirts which are embarrassingly like scarecrow stuff on me.   I see no solutions.

7 -- January 8th 2014
We live in Burgundy where winter temperatures vary between minus 10c to minus 20c.
We have already had minus 10c and the coldest part of our winter is yet to come. My husband is 81, a diabetic and had a stroke 6 years’ ago. I am 71 and in good health but I feel the cold badly. It will be a real hardship for us not to have the winter fuel allowance.
 We are also puzzled by the fact that the UK has included warmer countries outside France in the decision to stop our allowance. These countries are not a part of
mainland France and  mainland France is not affected by their weather patterns. We therefore don’t understand the logic involved in this current decision at all.
It’s tantamount to saying that, if India were still a part of the UK, that no one in the UK would be eligible either!  

8 -- From Cyprus 26 February 2015
Today LIMASSOL area...we have completed work on a 91 year old’s  ceiling BLACK with mould... she needs all the help we can get...  another put in hospital...YUK to DWP!!!
Mike Groves   Sec CPFG, CYPRUS
29 March 2015
9 -- My husband and myself are personal friends of **** and ****  (we live in the south of France) and were at the forefront of the battle for DLA/AA/CA way back in 2006, which the ECJ ruled our entitlement in 2007.
Now we are once again fighting for reinstatement of the Winter Fuel Payment, which David Cameron vowed he would not take away, and have received a letter from the EU having followed your guidance to lodge a formal complaint.
As the Conservatives are gunning for OAP expats from all directions, we are very concerned to read this article, once again instigating a stressful scenario.
My husband, ******, is 77 years old, he has mobility problems, sciatica, asthma, insulin dependent diabetes, heart problems, and has been fighting cancer for 3 years. I have been his 24/7 carer for the last few years and still am, how dare the government want to strip us of everything we are entitled to?
I thank you for your support and help on behalf of both of us
with kindest regards  L.D.

10 -  April 19th 2015 Two histories passed on by a Charity supporter.
This gentleman is aged 90.  He joined  the RN as Boy Seaman aged 16. Served in an MTB .Sunk by enemy on D Day.He suffered severe wounds to his stomach. Was nursed back to health at the RN Hospital Haslar.
When discharged  became schoolmaster, founding a  Language School in the Belgian Congo & then teaching in Portsmouth. On retirement in the 1980's he moved to France.  Divorced . Three female children. One dead, others live ouside UK. Unable to provide funds.
He moved around  the Dordogne & South Charente  taking on house sitting jobs or living in rented accomodation. His capital was diminished by the banking crisis. He became unable to pay his rent. He was helped by Mrs Susan Patrick until recently, the SSAFA Treasurer for France . A tower of strength who persuaded his former Masonic Lodge to pay towards his debts and liased with the French  "Service Publique",who  placed him  "sous tutelle" .Therefore his possessions have been sold & he is now confined in the Maison de Retraite in Aigre,Charente.His pension is used to pay for his upkeep. I think,but can not confirm  that he has been allowed to keep the Winter Fuel Payment. Which he will now lose. He does, of course, receive the annual £10 pensioners Xmas bonus from a grateful British Government!!

11 -- PETER.
Aged 70 plus.  Worked for the Sussex CC restoring artwork in Brighton Pavillion. Very small pension on early retirement. Lives here in  Creyssac,the village where my wife & I have lived for 20 years. The local GP asked us to keep an eye on him some 7 years ago. We found him living in total squalor . He was very ill.  The Pompiers  took him to Perigueux Hospital. He was in Intensive Care for a week. He was not registered with the Health Authority( CPAM ) so the Bordeaux Consulate were informed . They asked us to help. (There is no longer an Honorary Consul in the North Dordogne)   We contacted Newcastle to obtain  the the UK state Pension for him.They acted promptly,replying to the request for help by telephone midday on a Sunday. (Bravo)
He  lives  in a derelict house with no running water surviving on the two pensions & for the last 2 years the Winter Fuel Payments that he will now lose.

12 -- April 20th 2015  From a carer who visits an elderly couple.

I carry a fleece in my car which I put on when I arrive at my client’s house because it is so cold inside! I pat myself on the back each year when she makes it through  to May again. I buy thermal vests, fleecy dressing gowns & socks for them for Christmas & birthdays. Her mobility is so bad & the house so old that I insist they  have the heating on 10 months of the year, day & night (I know they turn it off when I leave & go to bed instead).

13 --  May 7th 2015.  (From Telegraph article by Elizabeth Roberts) Michael Boyd-Carpenter, 83, a retired stockbroker who lives in the Dordogne, said that while he has enough money to live on he knows of elderly Britons in his area struggling to make ends meet.
One, a man in his 90s, was wounded in action during the Second World War. His capital was diminished by the banking crisis and, unable to pay his rent, he now lives in a state care home.
 “I think he has been allowed to keep the winter fuel payment [so far] but will now lose it,” said Mr Boyd-Carpenter. “He’s a good example of someone who will suffer. So much for caring for our war heroes.”
Another, a man in his 70s, subsists on a small private pension plus the UK state pension.
“He lives in a derelict house with no running water surviving on the two pensions and, for the last two years, the winter fuel payments that he will now lose,” said Mr Boyd-Carpenter.
14 --  August 2nd 2015  from R.M (France)
I am in receipt of Winter Fuel Allowance until the rulings change and not for the better.   I am almost 69 years old and in receipt of State Pension and War Disability Pension from the Military.
I live alone and have no central heating in my little house and I feel the cold as my wood burner does not keep me sufficiently warm so I bought two second hand paraffin heaters.  I have photographs of my feet and hands that the state they are in when we have cold weather,  Would it be worth while attaching these.  I did see my GP but they were not very helpful.  I have been stocking up warmer clothes in order to keep warm.  

I live in L Q a small commune in Dept 22 - The winters here can be bitterly cold and we do have heavy rain, snow and ice - in the beginning of December and later on in the New Year.  It is most uncomfortable and I am housebound. We have no facilities eg shops, restaurants, mobile shops here in the commune.  I do not drive and have to organise  Transport on Demand - trips to ……. for shopping (have a friend who lives there) etc. I have to give two days notice but I try and plan ahead and go shopping monthly.  Here are some pictures of the commune.
I have four hot water bottles on standby!!

I have used my savings to try to make the house warmer eg new double glazed window, new roof as the old one was always losing tiles as we have very strong winds throughout the year, attic is insulated with insulation, new heavy front door, and part of my sous-sol is insulated (have a wooden floor with cracks etc!!)  I was let down my a supplier of wood last year so I hope this year will be better.   A farmer's wife came to the rescue but I was always worried about having a high electric bill.
[RM also sent pictures of her feet – blistered and with corns.]
Even my little dog feels the cold and snuggles next to me.
15 ---  21/08/2015 – from S.F.
My mother-in-law is 86 and lives here and she uses the WFA for her logs – it covers about half her winter fuel costs and she’s in S. Portugal where we can have frosts for 3 months of the year!

16 – 25/08/2015  D. 
After appalling surgery in 1977 I was left with a condition which left me able to do only light work  (from which I had to retire even earlier than anticipated) & which exempted me from  all prescription payments.  I lived in the West Country for 25 years during which time I experienced that number of winters (including being snowed-in for 2 weeks) and  I had to have fires, boilers, heating appliances in use from October round to the following May.  I seem to remember that it was the West Country that was sighted as the “levelling post” in terms of temperatures which deemed the cessation of w.f.payments to many  and which is why I mention the fact.  When I was 60 I moved to Sthn Spain  for my health which, I have to say, has improved.  However,  I still cannot go without indoor warmth in the winter months here, and living in the foothills of the mountains (but only 220 mtrs above sea level yet I was higher than that in the West Country!) still requires me to have fires during our winter months for my comfort and health.  It should also be recognised that one´s body becomes acclimatized to the heat of summer and consequently feels the cold even more so.  I buy my winter fuel supply of burning logs during the summer when they are cheaper, but one lorry load still costs me €350 so the absence of my winter fuel allowance is a severe loss to my well-being.
17 –  30/08/2015 SM
Writing to the MP.   I hope I can rely on your Support, as you know my circumstances here are not ideal renting a poorly maintained property, costing me a fortune in heating bills, €2,700 € in diesel heating fuel from March 2014,and My electricity bill has recently been  increased to €130 pm, I've had to have electric heating on in evenings these last few days, due to one of my health conditions, autoimmune Thyroiditis, now turned to Hashimoto's,  of which feeling cold is one symptom. I am now just 68 this month, poor health and dreading the winter here, but powerless to do anything, except write to you in hopes of saving my WFA, and say every little helps! 

18 – 5/09/2015 FM
We are pensioners on a very low State pension of around £800 a month which is about half the suggested amount required to live a comfortable life here in France.We need to heat our property from September through to May. The average temperatures here in the Charente are 4.5 degrees during the cold winter months, which are below that of the south of England. Our house temperature does not go above 20 degrees during the winter and we have struggled to keep warm in previous winters.

19  -  15/09/2015 Copied from a comment on the AngloInfo forum
We can't vote after 15 years so we don't count.  Shame on them I say.   As for me, well my husband is suffering from cancer and last winter we needed the heating on 24/7 because he'd lost so much weight he couldn't keep warm.  That extra bit of cash helped a great deal.  I know it's not a lot, and having it withdrawn won't stop me burning the extra oil this winter to keep him warm..  But as folks who are below the tax threshold it did make a difference. 

20 -11 December 2015 I am appalled to learn that Ian Duncan Smith has stopped the Winter Fuel Payment for this  year. 2015- I only got last year’s on 9th March this year which left us in dire straits.
I am sitting in the house in a heavy coat typing this as we have NO HEATING and the house is freezing.
I cannot remember the exact degrees government say you need to sit in and bedroom a couple of degrees lower but I found in the UK with housing benefit that you could spend whatever you liked on TV and Internet but to keep warm or eat - NO WAY.
I am a British citizen and 71yrs old- chronically ill - I get bronchitis which turns to pneumonia- hopefully this year it won't as I have been given a pneumonia vaccine for the first time.
My son is only 36yrs old and chronically ill due to being assaulted in the UK and as he suffers with diabetes and epilepsy he feel the cold terribly and is prone to bronchitis.
It is ridiculous to say we don't need heat- it is freezing here at the moment and has been like this for a week- rain and dampness to top it all.
As the European Court found in our favour surely this is going against EU rules  

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