Due to unforeseen circumstances in Spain, I have been forced to return home to the UK at short notice with my two young daughters. We are all British passport holders, I have registered with the local doctor and to vote with the council, my kids have already started school at the local academy, I've opened a UK bank account and have strong family ties in the local area. Naturally, my family are beyond happy that we have returned.
Now, this is how it REALLY is...
Recently, when the floods hit Cumbria, David Cameron boldly said something along the lines of "we must look after our own first" instead of send millions abroad in foreign aid. Except, of course, if you're a returning British expat.
I had to sit the Residential Habitual Test, which I was expecting. Of course, I had previously done some online research about this, and I found out that if I did all of the above, I may be able to have my "residency". Unfortunately, this was not to be, I failed simply because I have not been in the country long enough. This means that I am not entitled to ANY benefits for myself or my kids. As UK passport holders I feel that this is grossly unfair. I have had many phone calls with several departments and the Citizens' Advice Bureau and I have been informed that "ALL those entering the UK are treated the same". Not true. I feel I am being discriminated against because I am a British passport holder as are my children. I am NOT "entering" I am returning, and I believe that my rights should be slightly more than those who claim benefits and send money abroad and those who are already abroad and WRONGFULLY claiming for their children. I even used the word "discrimination"
I have been in touch with my local MP who kindly offered me food vouchers so I can feed my children at my parents' house and, grateful as I am, these food vouchers will not pay for public transport to attend meetings at the local job centre for advice on how to find work (I am not entitled to this OR any kind of child benefits for my kids) nor will food vouchers pay for school uniforms for my daughters. The eldest is 10 years old and is not entitled to school dinners, which I of course cannot pay for out of my non-existent income. I was told that after 12 weeks I will become eligible for all the benefits but three months is a very long time when you have no money.
I have had to register as homeless with the local council who will try to find us a home.
The flat I was renting in Spain is being sold and I have to return to sort out the paperwork on that, so I have had to call the job centre to cancel my "claim". That I am not entitled to. I am so confused, I have never had to deal with anything like this before.
I know I was lucky to find places at the local school, there are several who need to travel from all over town and I can walk it in 10 minutes. I am thankful for that. I am also thankful to my fantastic family and friends for keeping us going for the last few weeks
On my return do I have to resit the HRT? Will everything have to start all over again? Will I have to wait for ANOTHER 12 weeks with no money? I know nothing about any of this and I say to everybody I meet "talk to me like I am an idiot"
I think this policy needs a serious rethink, and the politicians should do more to help their own, and maybe, just maybe, Britain will one day be "great" again.
(THIS IS JUST MY PERSONAL EXPERIENCE AND MAY NOT BE THE SAME FOR ALL RETURNING EXPATS).