A Liberal Democrat peer who lives in the Dordogne is calling for more support for English-speakers in France who suffer from dementia.
Baroness Miller, 67, who has lived on a vineyard with her husband since 2010, has reached out to British Ambassador Menna Rawlings after reading the ambassador’s recent interview in The Connexion.
Lady Miller said: “I think there are enormous issues around this. I’ve come across a number of Britons starting to suffer from dementia.
"Locally, for example, I'm thinking of a good Samaritan who took in someone who began to develop dementia.
“His family in France wouldn’t have anything to do with him and he got very ill. He couldn’t speak French, and in the end one of the National Health trusts in England agreed he could go back there.
“Another person locally is worried about her husband and is also looking to go back to the UK. Someone in the next village has a husband who is quite violent, linked to his condition.”
She added: “I was struck by what the ambassador said in her interview about wanting to support those who are vulnerable because it’s about vulnerable people in general, not only dementia. For example those with mental health issues of other kinds.
“I’ve asked my Lib Dem colleagues to gather as many case histories as they can so we can build a picture of what is happening,” she said.
“My concern is there is no real helpline, no outreach programme. Where do people turn to?
"Our embassies have been getting more focused on trade and foreign policy, and I think they need to refocus on people. During the Brexit process there was more help, about residency, and that really needs to continue.”
"They don’t want people contacting them with tiny concerns, but it would be good, in those very stressful moments of life, to have somewhere to turn to for help.
“I think there are a lot of questions and I would welcome a meeting to discuss them with the most appropriate person at the embassy.”
She is not personally able to take on people’s cases, however, she said.
Lady Miller said she is keenly following the Elections Bill, which is expected to give back the UK parliamentary vote to all Britons abroad.
She said that when it returns to the Lords next spring, the Lib Dems will put down an amendment in favour of overseas constituencies, similar to France’s for its citizens abroad.
She knows a number of MPs in other parties, some with French homes, who might be willing to listen.
If the amendment fails, Lady Miller suggested that once all Britons have their votes back, they write to UK MPs to tell them why this is important to them.
She speculated that in the future, if the House of Lords is reformed, it might also be possible to have lords named to represent them, as France has dedicated senators.