Welfare, its place in the British Association of the Var

Conception to present day

In the middle of the last century when the first British Association was initially formed in the Nice area, cheap travel was not available and movement between countries, even in Europe, was only in the domain of the wealthy. However, in those days if a Brit required the assistance of a third party other than the British Consulate, a quick whip-round amongst the well heeled resident expats invariably solved most problems.

Turning the clock forward to the ‘90s, Europe now with its virtually non-existent internal borders and cheap flights makes the south of France one of the prime relocation areas for British retirees and, for the holiday makers, a ‘must visit’ destination. St Tropez, Nice, Cannes, and Monte Carlo changed from being glossy magazine and celluloid images to accessible reality. Modern cars could travel the distance from the channel ports without breaking down. A channel tunnel, an auto route network that could deliver Utopia via car or train in a day, and add in favourable exchange rates and cheap property prices, the rest is history.

In the Var region the population in 2019 was 1.076 million, which had doubled over the previous 50 years to reach that figure. This explosion of population led to a watering down of the number of wealthy individuals, even in the British community. This meant that the British Association needed to provide more than an occasional financial safety net for a few and to be able to assist with a variety of demands and requests for help in times of unanticipated need.

Before exploring some of the welfare aspects of the British Association of the Var let us just explain that in 1998 the original Var association, a branch of the Nice central committee, was formed. As a region, the Var covers 5973 sq km and its population density is 166 people per sq km. Compared with Nice which is just 72 sq km but has a density of 4849 people per sq km, the demands on the welfare group catering for the British community and the distances involved made a separate branch a sensible proposition. The original Var committee worked hard to increase their membership which soon matched and exceeded the combined total of all the other branches.

With a growing membership the Var Branch began to establish contacts within the French social and welfare system, and developed a knowledge of everyday life within the French system - tax, housing, the utilities and a whole spectrum of topics that newcomers encountered as they settled into French life. During the first five years of the newly formed Branch, France Telecom did not provide an English speaking help line as it does now, let alone a broadband network. Communication was totally different, no website link like this with which to present information to current and prospective members.

As mentioned earlier, the Var Branch was formed to cater for a diverse rural community which was recognised by the Nice central committee. In 2010 the Var Committee, supported by its membership at the AGM, elected to secede the parent committee and become independent. We now stand alone and have not forgotten the original commitment to welfare at the time of the BA’s conception.

How our welfare commitment has developed

With experience gained during the past decade, the Association has realised it cannot supply answers or solutions to all situations. Experience has taught us to embrace the services of other approved agencies and, likewise, they know when to involve us. Hopefully, between us we can provide those in difficulty with a positive solution to their problem.

The British Association of the Var must not be seen as an alternative to the French welfare system; we do not have access to their financial resources. We assume that full time resident British passport holders will become fiscally resident over here and join the French health system. We can provide detailed guidance on those aspects necessary to live in the Var.

How our Welfare Team can help individuals

* Receive and respond to initial questions by mail, email or telephone contact

* Establish individual’s status as resident or visitor

* Put people in touch with professionals who can provide specific help and expertise with their problems/difficulties such as the Bereavement Support Network www.bsnvar.org

* Visit people in hospital or at their home.

* If appropriate, attend meetings with Social Services Departments' Personnel

* Provide information on medical aids and advise if a doctor’s certificate will be required to facilitate a loan of larger items

* Offer assistance in obtaining home help if required

* If defined criteria are met, follow detailed guidelines to make funds available for those needing financial assistance. Alternatively, and depending on circumstances, introduce them to agencies which are better able to provide such assistance.

All contact with the Welfare Team is treated in the strictest confidence and a confidential report is presented at each Committee Meeting confirming the status and situation of all current cases.

The importance of joining the French system

To those who are resident in France, integrating into the French system is vitally important. When we receive requests for help with disability claims, health questions, hospitalisation, housing problems or more general social enquiries, being properly registered in the system ensures that we can usually open the appropriate doors to resolve a problem.

Failure to join creates major problems and can delay assistance as the French bureaucratic system grinds through its predetermined procedures. We cannot condone or recommend working on the “black” in France. The penalties for both employer and employee are steep and much disapproved of by the authorities.

The Welfare Team and how to contact them

The Contact Us section on our website contains the names and contact details of our Committee. The name of the Welfare Coordinator is shown next to that title and contact can be made by email via welfare@baofthevar.com. Your confidentiality is fully assured from the time you make contact.

Please remember that our Welfare Team is active across the Var and immediate reception cannot always be maintained, so please leave a message with contact details and you will be contacted at the earliest opportunity.

The British Association of the Var’s commitment to Welfare

You have read how the concept of welfare, looking after our own, was started in Nice in the 1950’s. We have explained how we started out in the Var and how the Association has developed to become the British Association of the Var, registered under French law as a 1901 loi association.

We are committed to provide assistance and welfare to our membership and British members and other British passport holders who seek help. We are a secular charitable association. If you are a resident in the region we expect you to be correctly integrated into the French systems, and for those of you who are tourists we will endeavour to facilitate a speedy resolution to your problems.

For those of you who are resident, please ask for assistance and guidance sooner rather than later. It makes life for everyone much easier, especially our Welfare team who are all volunteers.