Which French public services do Connexion readers find ‘most helpful’?

The levels of bureaucracy in France are a common complaint

Mairies are often a useful port of call for help with rules and formalities
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Cpam state health insurance bodies, mairies and France Services are among public services many Connexion readers find especially helpful, while residency card services and waste collection are among those criticised.

Health services in general were mostly praised, though some readers said they had to wait too long to see certain specialists.

We asked for reader feedback about state services after a survey by polling body OpinionWay asked French people in general about which had worked well for them.

Similarly to our readers, Cpams (the local branches of Assurance Maladie) topped the list among services that people in France found good to use; France’s employment office, Pôle Emploi, was rated least helpful.

Here is some of the feedback we have received on different services.

The health system / Cpam

  • “The high quality of the health service never ceases to amaze me and I sing its praises at every opportunity. I also think the French authorities’ attitude towards British residents following Brexit was highly commendable. I am in Charente.”
  • “I received expert swift attention over the last 18 months for my eye condition. I have had three operations with little or no waiting time.”
  • “It is high quality in Pas-de-Calais, although we are starting to notice difficulties in finding appointments with some specialists.”
  • “The health system has been great for us but appears to be in decline since Covid.”
  • “It is very difficult to obtain appointments for dentists and many medical specialists. There is usually a two-month wait.”
  • “I had a seamless knee replacement operation last year in Dordogne and four weeks of reeducation. It was all covered by Cpam and top-up insurance.”
  • “An English speaker at the Assurance Maladie was incredibly helpful when my husband had his carte Vitale stolen. He talked him through the steps he needed to complete for his replacement.”

Read also: France is set to switch to digital prescriptions. How will it work?

Prefectures – French nationality

  • “I started the process of becoming a French national par décret in 2016 and gained citizenship three years later. It took a long time but everything went smoothly. The only thing that didn’t happen was the public ceremony because of Covid. I live in Morbihan.”

Residency and cartes de séjour (prefectures and online)

  • “The [online] renewal of a carte de séjour is a complete horror show.”
  • “We tried to visit the prefecture to report a residency card being stolen on the ferry over to France. We reported to the gendarmerie but we and French friends could not understand how to inform the prefecture online. We were refused entry to the prefecture without an appointment; the security guard just said ‘use the internet’. We wasted three hours, and fuel.”
    Editor’s note: Duplicate cards in the case of theft are indeed now meant to be ordered online, at this link, choosingJe demande ou renouvelle un titre de séjour.

Pension service

  • “Those responsible for retraites in France have still not credited my UK National Insurance contributions. I asked for this to be done more than five years ago.”
    Editor’s note: UK N.I. contributions can be taken into account in a French pension calculation, but only so as to reduce any additional penalty that may be applied for not paying in for the usual standard number of years (currently around 42). The N.I contributions do not however count as actual paying-in years in France.

Read also: Callers often cannot reach key public services in France

France Services (centres helping with admin tasks)

  • “I recommend France Services, which was a great help to me when I hit a brick wall trying to get an attestation de droits [confirmation of state health cover] for my husband.”
  • “Our local France Services branch is very helpful.”

ANTS (agency issuing permits and documents)

  • “ANTS is a nightmare for car registration/changes and driving licences.”
  • “ANTS (Agence Nationale de Titres Sécurisés), who issue driving licences, were appalling. It took 18 months to swap a British driving licence for a French permis de conduire.”

Read also: Foreigners among the losers amid ‘excessive’ digitisation

Mairies (town hall)

  • “We have found our mairie very helpful and efficient, for example for help regarding passports and identity cards.”
  • “When my husband had his residency card stolen, the local mairie could not have been more helpful. They completely understood his frustration with the [online application] system. Fortunately, it was all accepted by the prefecture after they helped us complete the formalities.”

Consumer protection

  • “In April, I contacted government body SignalConso via the internet one evening about a financial scam and had a detailed and positive reply by the following morning from anti-fraud officials at DGCCRF.”

Tax service

  • “We find that the format of the tax returns has changed for the worse and become less accessible, and that they seem to have stopped adding explanatory notes. All slots for telephone or face-to-face meetings with the tax office were already filled when I tried to access one.”

Waste collection

  • “The new dustbin collection service in Dordogne is completely chaotic. I was charged €244.80 for my second home last year. I live alone and only deposited six – very expensive – bags.”

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