UK family's French care demand

British families could face a shock demand to pay towards the upkeep of their parents

BRITISH families could face a shock demand to pay towards the upkeep of their parents in French care homes.

In France, families of pensioners have a duty to help pay care costs. The Connexion has found that this can be extended to family members living in the UK, even if they have never lived in France.

A reader in Surrey was stunned to receive a letter in French asking for details of her income as her father was in a care home in Normandy.

The letter – headed obligation alimentaire (maintenance obligation) – gave no explanation. “It was a bolt out of the blue,” said the reader who asked not to be named.

She added that her father has been in a nursing home with dementia and her stepmother had applied for council assistance with the fees.

Because French law says children have maintenance duties towards parents in need, based on ability to pay, Orne council asked her to help pay the costs. However, her father died after the form was sent having spent two months in the home and the council is no longer seeking support.

The move surprised English solicitor and French avocat Gerard Barron, from Boulogne-sur-Mer, who said: “I have never heard of a French public body seeking to enforce such a maintenance obligation against a non-resident, non-French ‘maintenance debtor’.”

England does not have such care obligations, but France and Britain have signed an accord that could allow French law to be enforced in such a case.

The council would have had no difficulty in enforcing the claim if the family had lived in France.

Orne council said it was usual to seek a report on the family’s means, but from letters to the UK would henceforth include a contact number for an English-speaking council worker. “We would not know if the person was not a French-speaker; they could be a French person who lives abroad,” a spokeswoman said.

It was rare for forms to be sent abroad and the council is seeking clarification on its rights regarding people with no French connections.

She added: “We understand that someone is being asked to pay under an obligation that would not exist in Britain, but we may be spending taxpayers’ money on their parent, who might not have spent long in France.”

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