Ambassador Encourages Local Councillors to Help Brits to Integrate

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British consulate press release: British  Ambassador  Giles Paxman has  met  councillors for European Residents  to discuss further ways  to encourage British nationals to integrate into their local communities. Speaking at a forum  for councillors responsible for European Residents -  entitled “Working together to Support British Nationals” -  the Ambassador said he was impressed by their motivation and dedication to their work with the British community. Mr Paxman recognised many of the issues that  councillors have to deal with on a daily basis:  how to ensure that British nationals only access healthcare in the way they are entitled to,  how to overcome the language barrier that  many residents face, and how to offer the best support to the elderly and vulnerable who may lack  nearby family. He said the only way to address these concerns was through working together and involving local communities. Giles Paxman  said: “The forum was a pioneering initiative to share best practice between the different councillors of the main town halls where British nationals are resident. It was also  an opportunity to clarify  what the Consulate can do and to establish the assistance that  town halls can offer.   British residents make up 7% of the population of Alicante province, so it is important that town halls are seen as the first port of call for those who need help.   ”Judging from feedback, this event was very useful for the councillors and will enable them to help British residents who are finding difficulty in plugging into the Spanish system.” The 15 town halls at the forum represent over 100,000 British residents, more than 75 percent of the registered British population in Alicante and 25 percent of all British residents on the padrón in  Spain. Mr Paxman  underlined the positive economic impact of  British citizens, saying that tourism alone contributed an estimated 1.32 billion Euros to  the Valencia region in 2011,  to which should be added the positive economic impact of  the British residents.  He  emphasized  that under EU law, the UK paid the Spanish  government 277 million Euros in 2010 to cover the cost of  heath care provided to  British nationals . During the event, organised by the British Consulate in Alicante,  councillors  examined ideas for  encouraging British nationals to register on the padrón, as well as  case studies to highlight the roles of the Consulate and local  town halls.  Councillors learned  that the Consulate is unable to  give legal advice or organise  repatriation to the UK,  but  can help people  contact family members who may be able to provide financial or other  support. Teulada, Torrevieja and Calpe town halls presented a number of new initiatives  including  closer collaboration with British  residents’ associations to help Spanish social services,  an  enquiry service  for foreign  residents and  a language exchange to aid language learning. The Consulate and councillors also  discussed new ways to keep in touch with their local communities using social and traditional media, and considered ways of sharing ideas and common experience in  future.


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