Expat retirees forced back to UK by frozen pension scandal

Published:  3 Mar at 6 PM
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British pensioners who emigrated to be with grandchildren or for health reasons are being forced to return to the UK because their pensions are frozen in their host countries.

An example of the desperate decisions being taken by many elderly Brits who moved abroad to be with loved ones or to take advantage of warmer weather for their healths’ sake is a 90-year old grandmother who moved to Canada in 2001. An IT lecturer during her working life, she made the move to be close to her daughter and grandchildren who’d emigrated a few years previously.

Nowadays, her £75 a week pension cannot sustain her, and she will soon be a long-haul flight away from her immediate family as her savings are now depleted and her daughter isn’t in a position to help. For 12 years, since she realised her pension was frozen, she’s been writing to British politicians and cabinet ministers without result.

Had she lived just a three-hour drive away over the US/Canada border, her pension would have been upgraded regularly. She’s dreading returning to the UK and throwing herself on the mercies of the broken NHS as her anger and stress is affecting her health, although she’s well aware that she’s one of hundreds of thousands in the same unenviable position.

Pensioners in EU countries including France, Italy, Portugal, Greece and Spain all receive annual upgrades, but those choosing to live out their retirement in Commonwealth countries such as Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, Trinidad and others are left attempting to live on fixed pittances. Upgrading all expat frozen pensions would increase the UK's total pensions bill by just under one per cent.

In spite of the government claim of the necessity of bilateral agreements, a recent Freedom of Information request revealed that nothing is stopping the government from changing its mind. Sadly, in 2010 the Court of Human Rights found in favour of the government, thus making any changes unlikely to say the least.
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