Officials lay out action plan to cope with feared expats’ care timebomb

Civil servants have drawn up an action plan to tackle fears that services could be overwhelmed by British expatriates returning to the UK for care when they develop conditions such as dementia.

An early draft document prepared by officials at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, and seen by Community Care, sets out measures to deal with concerns about the increasing numbers of older Britons living overseas who are returning when they need care.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has devised the plan, which has yet to gain ministerial approval, to counter a predicted crisis and raise awareness of the potential problems faced by people living overseas.

Community Care revealed earlier this year that thousands of people who retired to live in the sun in countries such as Spain have not registered with the authorities (Care for returning expatriates could be major drain on council finances, 16 March).

The plan proposes the creation of a repatriation post at Heathrow Travelcare, a charity based within the airport, and that a Department for Work and Pensions representative should be based in the Spanish capital, Madrid, to offer advice on UK benefits.

The government has funded think-tank the Institute for Public Policy Research to carry out research into how many Britons live abroad. Its report will be published at the end of the year.

A £25,000 media campaign to highlight the risks of poor planning is also suggested.

Charity Age Concern plans to pilot an information line later this year in Majorca, based within the consulate, which could be introduced to other areas of Spain with high British expatriate populations.

Voluntary agencies in Spain, including Age Concern Espa–a, say they are dealing with growing numbers of cases where British older people have developed long-term conditions such as Alzheimer’s and need care.

Foreign Office officials have warned the problem is like “a massive iceberg growing under the surface” and that there is a “hardening stance” among Spain’s social services directors towards helping British pensioners.

Action plan proposals

  • Media campaign to highlight the effects of poor planning by older expatriates.
  • Institute for Public Policy Research report into how many Britons live abroad.
  • Age Concern to pilot an information line based within the British consulate in Majorca.

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