Ex-Pats Benefits - the Other Side of the Coin (April 24th 2009)
BBC television news led its bulletins early this (Friday 24th April) morning with an "expose" of benefit fraud committed by ex-patriate UK citizens living in Spain.
Commenting on this story North Thanet's MP, Roger Gale (Conservative), who has been campaigning for the reinstatement of Allowances for ex-pat UK citizens has said:
"Nobody should condone the abuse of our benefit system, wherever it takes place. The BBC did not need to send a camera crew and reporter on a "freebie" to the Costa del Sol or anywhere else in Spain to uncover instances of benefit fraud. We know that it is taking place on their doorstep in White City and the evidence is to be found using the sports facilities of the country on a daily basis as "disabled" claimants enjoy fresh air and exercise! The fact is that the government has, while making it harder for genuine claimants to receive benefits, signally failed to root out abuse of the system.
It is a sadness, though, that this report will have distracted attention from the other side of this coin: while there are clearly some UK citizens living abroad and "playing the system" there are others facing illness and genuine hardship that are entitled to assistance that they are being denied.
The European Court of Justice has ruled that Disability Living Allowance and Carers Allowance, for example, are "exportable" benefits but there is a significant number of UK citizens living within the EU and Switzerland who are finding it difficult if not impossible to claim benefits that they desperately need.
These are not "benefit scroungers". They are people who have, in the main, paid UK taxes throughout their working lives and who have chosen to retire to other countries within Europe. Many of them have served their country in the armed forces or the Foreign and Commonwealth office. They are now growing old and they should be receiving the assistance to which others, arriving in the UK having not paid a penny in UK tax at all, are apparently able to receive automatically.
I believe that the government, while failing to control benefit fraud, is at the same time seeking to wriggle out of its obligations to a small but significant number of citizens(including some of my own constituents) and that is a disgrace that ought, also, to be highlighted by the UK media."