My friend lives in Italy, I live in the South of France, we have been friends for almost 40 years. We have lived here for almost 12 years, she has lived in Italy for 11 years.
18 Months ago, my friends husband died, she has missed out on getting her pension twice now since his death, by just 8 days, because of changes to the age of qualification for a British pension. P received bereavement benefit for a year after her husbands death, she was not aware that this benefit is paid only for a year after the death of her husband. P got quite a surprise when she received a letter from the benefit agency to advise her that she would not get anymore benefit. To add insult to injury, this year, they wrote to her to advise that she would not receive the cold weather payment because she does not qualify!
Her husband had been on a good wage, paid in a lot of money to his pension, she her self had worked all her working life up to moving to Italy, they did not have children, and now she is alone in Italy, but does have good friends. P has used up her savings, can't sell her house, because property is not selling in her area. I have been trying to help her by challenging the pensions system, and writing to people. P has been told that in order to get benefit, she must return to the UK, to claim income support!
P does not have any family to go to, she would have to go on the streets and become homeless with her two little dogs. Her home in Italy would be left empty, and her possessions would be at risk.
I wrote to MEPs but only one got back to me, and gave me advice, we started the ball rolling, she was advised to write to the MP for the area in the UK where she last lived. I contacted the MP for her, but she had to write in and give all her contact details. The MP has taken up her case with the department of pensions. We have pointed out that if she stays in Italy and receives her pension, it will cost the benefits agency a lot less than having to find her a place to live, and to pay income support until she qualifies for her pension in around 4 years!
Her MP wrote back to her and advised her to write to the Consulate in Rome, which she did. The MP is waiting for a reply from the benefits agency. The consulate in Rome said that they could not help. This has been going on now for quite some time. Today, I wrote to other MPs with links to the benefits agency, because I think that she is being treated very badly. It really does get to me that between them P and her husband worked for over 40 years each. Never claiming benefit, and paying into the UK tax and Pensions system.
P is now surviving on a small private pension, and a small payment from a private pension from her late husband. The part of her husbands retirement pension that should have given her an income, does not now exist, so what has happened to the money that he paid in to protect her and give her an income? How many more expats have been affected by this situation? How many more expats believe that their spouses will be OK should they die first?
Widows pension does not exist anymore, only bereavement pension, and for one year only after the death of their partner! What is happening to the money that we all thought would pay a pension to the surviving spouse?
I would like to hear from anyone who has been affected by these same rules? We all believed that our pension would be honoured until we die, regardless of which EU country we live in, we have contributed fully in our working life. Why should she have to return to the UK to get any benefit. Especially when other EU members can go to the UK, claim benefit and even send money home for children living in another EU country? My friend P has her dignity, I want to have this brought to the attention of anyone who will listen, my friend has suffered enough, I am very worried for her health and safety. P is very down and depressed. I would like to you to read what she said to me on Monday of this week.
"Hi Moe & JB
As you know this computer is acting up, keeps sticking in saving, well I ran a clean up on the discs, with my heart in my mouth, it didn't come up with any problems. Fingers crossed it might have solved the problem.
61 is only a number and I still think that but the mirror never lies, I look a total wreck great big bags under my eyes, after I spoke to you I sat on the settee and fell asleep for a couple of hours, when I woke up I was freezing. I had something to eat later and feel a bit better now. I just to need to know what's going to happen, then I can get on with my life, now I'm so in limbo. My mind is in complete turmoil, even when I'm having something to eat, (I force myself, everything tastes like cardboard) I look around and the dread the thought of packing everything up, where to store it, where will I end up, what to do with the dogs. I'm not a greedy person but never thought things would turn out like this.
As always thanks for all your love and support, Polxxxx "
I am frustrated at the lack of care from the powers that be, P is living on very little money, this should not happen. I ask how safe are we all, and what could happen to us in the same situation?
Please do reply if you are in the same situation, we need to do something about this, is this what we paid or taxes and national insurance for? Most of us could end up in this situation, More pension changes are on the way in April!