CONSULATESPAINBritish 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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