Charity to close French doors

Mary Hughes, who has run the French branch of the Elizabeth Finn Fund since 2009

UK nationals in France who find themselves in difficulty will still be able to apply for aid

The Elizabeth Finn Fund, which helps people facing tough times with one-off financial grants, is to close its French office at the end of December.

UK residents living in France will still be able to apply for help but will have to contact London directly.

The French office has helped hundreds of people since it was set up by Mary Hughes (right) in 2009.

She opened the branch after realising there was just as much need in France for the kind of charity work she had been doing in the UK for the Civil Service Benevolent Fund, and the Royal British Legion.

Mrs Hughes contacted several UK charities and Elizabeth Finn Care agreed to take on the French role. It was founded in 1897 to aid ‘distressed gentlefolk’ and has evolved over the years to help professionals who had fallen on hard times.

The charity has recently been renamed Elizabeth Finn Fund and is part of Turn2us, an organisation that helps people in financial hardship access UK benefits and charitable grants.
“It was initially a real battle to get it up and running,” said Mrs Hughes. “People in the UK tend to think that we’re all out here having a wonderful time, living in constant sunshine and enjoying the good life.

“There is a huge misconception that everyone has bought a huge property and everything is hunky dory.

“But many people have modest lifestyles and anyone, anywhere, can have unexpected problems. Somebody can fall ill and, perhaps, they are then unable to complete their home renovations and have to spend their capital to employ artisans to complete the work. There can be marital break-ups. Things happen.”

There are strict criteria to get assistance, including the amount of savings you have, but eligible claimants can be awarded a one off payment of €1,000 for a single person and £1,500 for a couple.

Mary said that she expected an increase in applicants with the downturn in the pound affecting pensions: “There are a lot of people going through a tough time. I would say to them that there are an awful lot of charities in the UK which will help people in France. 

“They are often related to jobs people have done in the past, so do ask around.

“I feel very sad not to be able to continue to help, myself. I have done it for such a long time now and I have had a brilliant team of volunteers.

“I think it helped people to talk to someone in France who could understand what it is like here.” www.turn2us.org.uk

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