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Foreign OAPs lose pension

Foreign OAPs may lose pension top-up benefit

HARD-UP expat pensioners could be forced to return to the UK if MPs back a move to change the senior citizens’ pension top-up.

Alpes-Maritimes MP Lionnel Luca has proposed that only the French and those who have worked in France should be eligible to claim the French pension credit, ASPA. He says this is necessary to reduce France’s social security debt.

So far, 42 other MPs have backed the move which comes as tax campaigns site Le Cri du Contribuable says 94,000 people have signed a petition to President Sarkozy to bar non-French citizens who have not worked in France from receiving ASPA.

The top-up is allocated to over-65s who are “stable and permanent” residents and it increases their income to €8,907 for a single person or €14,181 for a couple. It is similar to the UK’s Pension Credit, available to all residents of th€e UK (not to Britons abroad) which tops up incomes to a maximum £8,209 (€9,317) or £12,313 (€13,974) for a couple.

ASPA is for people with limited French pensions due to contribution gaps and those with no French pension rights. About 71,000 people benefit. Hardship charity Elizabeth Finn Care’s French representative, Mary Hughes, said: “I have suggested to a lot of people I see that they might be entitled. A lot of them have got it and it makes a terrific difference to them.”

She added: “Are we in the EU or not? If they worked and paid in the UK and retired to France it is only fair they should be able to claim. Many people who get ASPA came to France after retirement and just get that instead of a pension credit from the UK.”

She said they typically have small state and/or work pensions that are not enough for their needs. “This proposed law would be very unfair, although at this stage there is nothing definite.”
For one claimant, a 69-year-old retired credit controller from Normandy who asked not to be named, said ASPA had been a “lifeline” for her and her husband. She said they retired to France 10 years ago and started claiming three years ago.

“We needed financial help and couldn’t get any from the British government – we both worked up until the end and paid all our dues but we weren’t entitled because of their attitude towards expats. We were desperate because my husband [who has since died] was seriously ill.”

The exchange rate had reduced the value of their state pensions and she added: “We loved where we were and ASPA was a means to an end. It has been a great help, and now I am on my own I don’t know what I would do without it.

“I am on the breadline as it is and I dread the thought of it being stopped. Perish the thought I should have to go back to the UK. I spend my money in France, it’s not like I am taking it away, and under the ASPA rules some money will be taken back from my estate after I die.”

Another ASPA recipient, 73, from Brittany, said she and her husband, 81, lost their money in a stock market crash and managed to buy and renovate their small house in France where they had lived since 1995. She said they got nothing from the UK – not even winter fuel payment – and her pension was €69 a week.

They have claimed ASPA for six years, she said, adding: “We rely on it desperately, without it we couldn’t pay our household bills.

“We couldn’t sell up because nothing is selling here, and we need our 14-year-old car because there is no bus service and without it we could not get to the shops.”
Mr Luca’s office said there was no set date for the proposal to be considered by parliament.

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