Support is available for UK veterans living in France

New befriending service among help offered for any ex-Forces personnel

Veteran displaying medals
Do you know a veteran who needs help?

The number of cases handled by the French branch of British Armed Forces charity SSAFA has halved since the Covid pandemic.

Keith Cima, chairman of SSAFA France and the regional chair for SSAFA overseas, wants to raise awareness of how the organisation can help veterans, including a new befriending service.

SSAFA stands for Soldiers’ Sailors’ & Airmen's Families Association, and the French arm of it used to handle about 100 cases a year before Covid struck. This has dropped to around 50.

Any British veteran is entitled to lifelong support from the association, no matter where they live, how long they served and whether they were in the reserves or not. 

The support extends to family, as well as ex-merchant navy and ex-British Airways employees, and anyone who has worn a British uniform, such as French soldiers who fought for the British in World War Two. 

Financial and administrative aid 

Aid is mainly financial but SSAFA also helps people navigate what can sometimes feel like a maze of French administration and bureaucracy, such as how to apply for a residency card or find an English-speaking lawyer in France. 

Though the French branch has no budget itself and is run entirely by volunteers, it liaises with other charities and organisations to receive funding and help.

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Generally, someone who contacts SSAFA for help or welfare support will be assigned a caseworker. This can now be done online.

The caseworker will then apply for help from a service charity, such as a grant from the Royal Engineers, for example. They can also contact French organisations or previous employers or, if it is a purely welfare situation, social services. 

“Our principal role is to provide financial and welfare support to people residing in France who need it,” explained Mr Cima.

New befriending service launched 

The branch is launching a new befriending service, giving veterans experiencing isolation and loneliness someone to talk to via phone calls, online meetings or emails.

“We are the first branch to offer this service and SSAFA central office is watching with interest to see how it goes,” said Mr Cima.

There are currently 27 case workers and 10 visitors (people who visit veterans along with a case worker but who do not have the same responsibilities) located across France.

It is estimated that some 10,000 people living in France could benefit from SSAFA’s help. 

“If you are a British military veteran in France and need support of any nature, whether that is financial, welfare, administrative or befriending, we are here to help. Importantly, if you know a veteran, then let them know about us,” said Mr Cima. 

Contact can be made by emailing, by calling 06 83 85 39 09, or via SSAFA’s website.