Author Archives: Mary Clare Bland

open evening with the BBF

Open Evening with the BBF

An Open Evening with the BBF

On Wednesday 10th of April the British Council kindly hosted an Open Evening for the British Benevolent Fund (BBF) at the British Council, their flagship school. Billed as an informal event to learn about the BBF and meet the team of volunteers who make it happen, the function was opened by Events Manager Olaf Clayton who welcomed everyone and thanked them for coming. He introduced the BBF’s new Chairman, John Scott, who spoke about his vision for the charity under his stewardship. He hopes that the BBF will be able to reach many British citizens who have been living in Spain for several years without fully registering with local authorities. Brexit is acting as a wake-up call for these British citizens and the BBF is ready to help in any which way it can.

Treasurer Charlie Wilson then spoke, giving a presentation explaining who we are, who we help, how we help them and what practical steps can be taken by those in the room wanting to support the charity in any way. After taking questions, Charlie invited everyone present to have a glass of wine and some lovely food which had been prepared by Events volunteer Jenny Osborne. It was a very pleasant evening in good company.

Thank you to everyone for coming along. We look forward to you joining our team!

british benevolent fund, English speaking charities

English Speaking Charities, Alicante Diputación and British Consulate Annual Meeting

The British Benevolent Fund was represented by Charlie Wilson (treasurer) and Chris Neill (case support officer) at the annual meeting organised by the British Consulate and the Alicante local government at Alicante on Thursday 7th March, 2019.

This yearly event brings together the Alicante Consulate, which represents over 15, 000 registered British Citizens in the Alicante region, the local Spanish government and local Charity organisations that work in the Alicante area.

English speaking charities

British Consul Sarah Jane Morris and Mercedes Alonso, the provincial councillor for International Residents in Alicante, welcomed everyone and presented the introduction to what turned out to be a fascinating day.

Esther Ponzoda presented the official website of the International residents department. She explained how local organisations can use it to apply for public funding online.

Melisha Strachan, who is a specialist advisor and social worker to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, outlined the resources in the UK that are available to returning British Citizens upon repatriation to the UK.

Consular Officer Laura de la Fuente gave a brief talk on the mechanisms in place to deal with cases of domestic violence and the role of the consulate in such cases.

Of course Brexit was never far from the agenda and we were introduced to Elena Jurado who has just taken on a new post in the British Consulate as the Brexit Social Worker Advisor.

Later Sarah Munsterhjelm, the Alicante Vice Consul, outlined measures that the measures that the Spanish and UK Governments are taking in the case of either a deal or a no deal Brexit and reassured British Citizens that at present, all existing rights to residency and healthcare access will be maintained.

This was an excellent opportunity to increase BBF visibility in the Alicante region.

Brits in Spain after Brexit

Brits in Spain after Brexit: Presentation by the UK Embassy

Over the past few weeks the British Embassy has been holding citizen outreach meetings. Here they share information and answer questions from the general public about Brits in Spain after Brexit. Volunteers from the BBF attended the meeting, which took place  on February 15, 2019 in Madrid.

Apart from reminding British citizens resident in Spain about the resources available to us via the government website, the Embassy was keen to reassure Brits living in Spain that there is a good working relationship with the Spanish government. The Embassy made clear this relationship will not be affected by the Spanish snap election set for April 29, 2019.

 

They gave out these handouts in the meeting:

Information for UK Nationals in Spain

Information for UK nationals in Spain

This outlines the steps you need to take to register as a Spanish resident

Living in Spain

A list of websites which includes everything from advice on how to recognize foreign qualifications to how to claim benefits for British nationals overseas.

Handout_living in Spain – V1 (002)

 

Q&A for Brits in Spain after Brexit

There was a Q&A session afterward the presentation.  People asked about the effects of a no-deal Brexit on our rights, our freedom of movement and our status as residents in Spain. The Embassy has very little information about a no-deal Brexit and all answers given were premised on the Withdrawal Agreement getting through parliament before the 29th of March 2019.

The advice was clear. No matter what the Brexit outcome is, there are four steps every British citizen should follow as a matter of course if deciding to settle in Spain.

  • Ensure you are registered as resident in Spain and that you are registered on the Padrón. Here is a link to book an appointment at the Oficina de Extranjería. Our next blog post will discuss how to register on the Padrón. Follow us on Facebook to receive a notification of when this information is posted.
  • Ensure you have an S1 form. This allows you to claim the reciprocal right to healthcare if you are not working in Spain and/or have retired here.
  • Ensure your driving license has been swapped to a Spanish one.
  • Ensure your university and professional qualifications have been recognized by the Spanish Ministry of Education.

This blog will continue to post information to help Brits is Spain prepare for Brexit and to assist Brits in Spain after Brexit. We will provide information as soon as it becomes available. We will also share it on our Facebook page. If you wish to follow our Facebook page and receive notifications when we post Brexit related news, here is the link: BBF Facebook Page

Recent repatriation to the UK success story

Juliet wrote to our Treasurer recently to thank the British Benevolent Fund for helping with this repatriation to the UK.

As the friend of one of your beneficiaries I would like to describe how very much the British Benevolent Fund assisted her, & even helped me to help her.

The British citizen in question was in urgent need of financial assistance to repatriate to the UK because she had completely run out of money & was about to be evicted for rent arrears. She is, further, a pensioner & disabled. She has no family at all & would have been homeless where she lived in Spain because the local authorities could not support her.

Via considerable input from the local British Consulate the British Benevolent Fund provided a very generous grant that paid for the lady’s flight, a taxi from Heathrow to Taunton in Somerset then 8 nights in a disabled hotel room until her homeless situation could be resolved by social services. Originally 2 nights in the hotel were planned & expected to be sufficient but in fact the stay had to be extended twice over because residential placement wasn’t forthcoming, requiring the treasurer of the BBF to urgently seek release of extra funds each time. The room provided by the BBF had a carers bed which enabled me to stay, at no cost to me, to assist the lady.

As much as the generosity of the BBF, I would like to emphasize the extremely caring, concerned attitude of the case support worker & treasurer. They were in frequent telephone contact, both for arrangements & out of concern for the lady’s welfare, & clearly had great personal concern for her. This personal support during an intensely stressful time, right through until a satisfactory outcome was established, was highly appreciated by the lady & I.

The invaluable assistance of the BBF enabled a fully satisfactory outcome in these otherwise unavoidable desperate circumstances.

The British Benevolent Fund works closely with partner organizations to help British citizens in need with help for repatriation to the UK, and other pressing issues.

If you have an urgent issue, please contact us.