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Benefits in France for UK Ex-pats

A guide outlining those benefits UK ex-pats can receive in France

Are benefits exportable?

The question of whether or not you will retain your rights to the benefits you receive in the UK when moving to France can often become rather more complex than it first appears, as many ex-pats have found. Conflicting advice, conflicting experiences and a minefield of legislation and appeals muddy the waters of this vital issue, one which can make or break the dream of living in La Belle France for a large number of Britons. (Moving to France - how to go about it.)

Living in France can improve quality of life

Some people who have chosen to relocate to France despite having health issues or other benefit needs, have found themselves in the position of being told that they should not have taken their personal problems to a foreign country. However, for many, the better climate (Weather in France, The Winds of France) and the less stressful environment can help improve their quality of life considerably. Others have made the move in order to be with family who are able to offer the help and support they need.

British government cut payments in 1992

In 1992, the British government cut the payment of these benefits to those who had moved out of the country. These people, many of whom suffered from debilitating or terminal conditions, had made the move to France or other EU countries having been informed that their benefits would remain their entitlement for life, and were then placed in an intolerable situation having sold their homes in the UK and invested everything into a new life abroad (Living in France).

Disability Living Allowance rules changed

The European Court of Justice ruled in 2007 that benefits should be exportable within the EU, of which France and the UK are clearly a part. In theory, this ruling means that anyone who is eligible for or has been claiming Disability Living Allowance (DLA) in the UK before their move to France should still be able to receive it (or at least a part of it) after moving to live in France. The ruling was made on the grounds that the European Union have agreed free movement of people and pensions should be allowed throughout its member countries, and that a refusal to allow the export of DLA within the EU contravenes this ruling.

Some DLA can be claimed in France

DLA consists of two parts, one exportable under European Law, the other is non exportable. The DLA care component, which allows for necessary help with everyday life and bodily functions, is exportable, so if you have been designated as eligible for this in the UK you should still be able to receive it in France. However, it is important to note that the mobility component is not at this time considered exportable and you will not be able to receive it in France, although there are appeals in course and pressure being placed on the government to change this.

Residency rules and other technicalities can stop benefit payments

So, according to the above, the position should be clear cut, but in far too many cases it is not. The British government had their own interpretation of the rules on residency, specifically citing the clause that to be eligible, a person claiming the benefit who moves to France must have been resident in the UK for 26 weeks out of the previous 52 (prior to the export of the benefit) and used this technicality to stop benefit payments to those who did not fulfil this criteria. Other technicalities have also been used to refuse benefits, but the European Courts are taking a dim view of the UK's attempts to shirk their responsibilities in this way.

A landmark case shows EU tightening up laws

An important ruling in favour of a disabled ex-pat man living in France was made in 2009. A judge ruled that the UK's refusal to pay DLA on the grounds of his non residency in the UK for the required 26 weeks, contravened European Law on exportable benefits, and he was awarded not only the reinstatement of his benefits but the UK government was also ordered to make back payments from the time the benefit was wrongly stopped. This case and others since, points to the EU tightening up on the laws and gives hope to others, but each case is judged on its individual merits and outcomes are not always so favourable.

How to claim benefits in France

The first move is to establish your eligibility with the UK government (Claiming benefits in Europe, Moving to another EEA country: how EC Regulations affect you - DWP). If you are accepted as eligible, you should be able to proceed without difficulty.

What to do if you are refused

If, however, you are refused, and you consider this refusal to be erroneous, there are a number of moves you can make. You can appeal to the European Court, and further advice and help may be available through MP Roger Gale, who is a champion of this cause (Roger Gale).

France may be able to help with alternative benefits

Finally, should you fail to receive help from the UK, there is a possibility that France will help you. The English language newspaper for residents in France, The Connexion, reports that there are French equivalents or alternative benefits for which you may be eligible as long as you have been resident in France for more then six months. To discover more, visit the website of the Maison Départmentales des Personnes Handicappés (MDPH).

Other exportable benefits

There are some other benefits which are also considered exportable. These are the Carer's Allowance and the Pensioner's Winter Fuel allowance, although with regard to the latter the position may change as the government is reviewing the case.

Additional articles which may be of interest:

Health care in France
Health care in France - another U-turn by Sarkozy
Retirement and retiring to France
Life in France
Getting your UK pension paid in France

About the author

Joanna Simm moved to the Languedoc area of south-west France in October 2004 having found her property through French Property Links.

your questions...

1. A question about the mobility part of the DLA (added 10/12/13)...

Why isn't the mobility part of DLA available in France? I payed in all my working life in England, and just because we moved to France and I had a stroke I get DLA but not the mobility part? Is there someone that could be written to, to appeal to get the law changed?

Our reply...

Thanks for contacting us. I'm afraid I don't know why the mobility component of DLA is not available in France. Other than what we have said in the above article, perhaps you could try your Mairie, and ask who you need to contact to appeal. This is a problem shared by many.

2. A question about claiming benefits (added 26/6/14)...

Hello - my husband, myself and our two children will be moving to France in a few months and were wondering of we can still claim child benefit, tax credits and esa untill we are all sorted? And how would we go about it? Thank you.

Our reply...

Thanks for contacting us. As we say above in our article, "the first move is to establish your eligibility with the UK government". So you would need to contact the relevant benefit offices who deal with you here in the UK and ask them.

3. Questions about motability vehicles and schemes in France (added 10/3/15)...

Hi - is it possible to get a French Motability vehicle? We had one when we lived in the UK but had to hand it back when we moved to France. Is there a similar Motability scheme in France?

Our reply...

Thanks for contacting us, though I'm afraid I'm unable to answer your question. I understand that the mobility part of DLA is not transferable to France, so as this is the part that dealt with your vehicle in the UK, this may mean that there is no equivalent scheme in France that you would be entitled to. But as I am no expert in these matters, I would suggest you perhaps check with the Maison Départmentales des Personnes Handicappés (www.mdph.fr) or indeed ask the people at your Mairie, or your doctor.

Should anyone reading this be able to help, please do get in touch.

4. A question about claiming housing benefit (added 29/10/15)...

I am a UK resident with health problems intending to join my daughter in the South of France, who is currently working there and has been living there for 5 years. She is an offshore worker and is looking to rent a property where I could live with her.

My question is will I be able to claim housing benefit as she will be renting a two bed apartment in order to accommodate me. The reason for this move is that I no longer have any personal support here in the UK and the benefits of better weather will aid my mobility. I also have a son in the USA (he is an American citizen) who is in the Forces and moves around a lot so a move to live with him is not practical at this time. I look forward to your reply and thank you in advance.

Our reply...

Thanks for contacting us. I do not think you can claim housing benefit in France, I don't think it is a transportable benefit. But as I am no expert in these matters, I would check with your benefits office here. If you know where you will be living in France, you could also contact the Assistante Sociale at the local Mairie, or CAF (http://www.caf.fr/).

5. A question about possible entitlement to benefits (added 1/4/16)...

Hello - have been working in France for a number of years, but only in the winter. I now find my funds/savings are depleted. Have been on 5 month contracts and paid all the ins/tax. Can I claim anything? My wife only has her state pension from the UK of £480 per month. If so where do I go to claim please?

Our reply...

Thanks for contacting us. If you are a French resident, I would suggest you contact your Mairie to find out what and where you can claim, as there are many types of benefits and all depend on individual circumstances. If you are currently a UK resident then as we say in our article, "the first move is to establish your eligibility with the UK government". The following website should be of help: Claiming benefits if you live, move or travel abroad (https://www.gov.uk/claim-benefits-abroad/overview).

6. A question whether ESA and PIP benefits are transferable (added 27/4/18)...

My wife is provided with contributions- based ESA and PIP as a result of her mental health issues. We would like to move to France to benefit her health. Can anyone tell me if her benefits are transferable please? The Benefits Office and DWP have been less that helpful!

Our reply...

Thanks for contacting us. The government website (https://www.gov.uk/) says your wife should be able to get contribution-based ESA in France. Have you tried the International Pension Centre help line about this - 0191 218 7117? And PIP may be possible for daily living needs. The PIP enquiry line is 0800 121 4433. If you have already tried these contacts, can you perhaps ask her GP?

Should anyone reading this be able to offer any further advice, please do get in touch.

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