‘People can be very nervous about returning after so many years’

Social worker Helen Anaman has seen the distress that some people returning to the UK can suffer.

Anaman started work in September at Heathrow Travelcare, a charity that operates a crisis social work team.

“People can be very nervous about coming back after so many years and I can hopefully reduce any additional distress they may suffer and reduce the risk of them becoming homeless,” she says.

Most of the people she deals with have experienced mental health problems in addition to having varying social care needs.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office funds her role as a repatriation officer at Heathrow airport to help the rising numbers of expatriates returning home.

Her job is to plan their return, which includes liaising with social care and health agencies. Each council treats cases differently  and obtaining help is not always easy, she says, especially where the person returning cannot prove a link to the area they wanted to settle in.

She says: “There can be a lot of resistance to repatriation from primary care trusts. They may have to fund the person’s transfer to a hospital of their choice and that can be expensive. Social services can be reluctant to help too. I understand why because they are under strain.”

The cost of repatriation, which can include travel, legal and medical expenses, can come as a shock to the person or organisation footing the bill, says Anaman.

People need to seek legal advice before they emigrate and “make sure they are clear what they have access to in the UK”, she adds.

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Sally Gillen

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