Councils in the UK could face huge pressures from older expatriates returning to the country for care, Community Care can reveal.
Hundreds of thousands of people who retired to “live in the sun” in countries such as Spain have not registered with the authorities and some are turning to British consulates for help on everything from health care to financial advice.
Paul Abrey, consul for the Spanish islands of Majorca and Menorca, said he dealt with around 10 cases a month but warned the problem was like “a massive iceberg growing under the surface”.
Abrey said there was a “hardening stance” among local authorities in Spain towards expatriates – dubbed the “por favores” in reference to the only Spanish phrase many of them speak – to providing help.
He said: “I have been told the authorities are getting frustrated because it is difficult for them to provide for their own people, let alone an influx of foreigners.
“We are not resourced to take on a lot of these problems and with the best will in the world we are not social workers. We cannot provide care at home for Brits living abroad.”
People who have developed conditions such as dementia may, in extreme circumstances, have to be repatriated if no care can be provided and could arrive home distressed and disorientated.
Abrey said: “A year ago we repatriated three older women who had been living in a nursing home that closed down. They died soon after returning to the UK.”
Philip Cotterill, the Association of Directors of Social Services’ spokesperson on international issues, said the problem affected people living in other countries such as Greece.
Government figures show there are more than one million British pensioners living abroad.
Cotterill said: “From a social services point of view, if all of these old people come back here it will be a huge drain.”
At a meeting last week, Age Concern Espa–a met with UK charities to discuss proposals to deal with what could become a huge problem.