2 Apr, 2014 @ 15:00
1 min read

EXCLUSIVE: Report claims more than 20,000 British pensioners are desperate to return home from Spain

pensioner e

POVERTY has trapped tens of thousands of British pensioners in Spain.

The hard-hitting study claims that around 20,000 expats are desperate to return home, but finding it difficult to relocate.

Isolation from friends and family, lack of suitable care homes, and the increasing cost of living are the main reasons elderly expats want to relocate.

And the ground-breaking survey claims that once they do finally return home it will put a huge strain on the UK authorities.

The study by Dr Charles Betty, a British expat based in Benalmadena, has spent over a year looking into the reasons, issues and problems of those who want to relocate but can’t due to money problems.

Backed by the University of Northampton, he has discovered that around 5% of all British pensioners on the Costa del Sol wish to return to the UK.

With an estimated 350,000 such expats based here, that means around 20,000 people could be about to become an additional burden on the British state.

When adding in the number of expats also based in Valencia, Murcia and the Costa Brava, this number could reach over 50,000 people.

“I was extremely alarmed by how little in-depth research there is into the problems facing these people,” said Betty, who has lived on the Costa del Sol for three decades.

“Having been involved in welfare on the coast for more than 25 years, I can see that things are really bad.

“Action is needed now to address firstly the problems of accessing home care, and secondly how personal savings can be protected.”

He continued: “The greatest and most important issue that concerns pensioners who want to return is the ‘poverty trap’.

“They are seeing their pensions drop and with decreasing financial assets and the increasing cost of living it means they are simply unable to return home.”

He estimates their return – and they will one way or another – will have serious implications for the country’s elderly care organisations.

“It is for this reason, in particular, that I believe the British government should act to help the enormous group of pensioners based down here,” he added.

His research has involved hundreds of in-depth interviews to uncover the range of issues that the elderly on the Costa del Sol are facing.

He would like to interview more people who are contemplating relocation, to discuss their experiences.
To contact Dr Betty, email [email protected], or call 952 447 637.

All information gathered will be treated as strictly confidential, and no names will be used.
Please contact [email protected] with your stories and reasons for wanting to return.

Imogen Calderwood

DO YOU HAVE NEWS FOR US at Spain’s most popular English newspaper - the Olive Press? Contact us now via email: [email protected] or call 951 273 575. To contact the newsdesk out of regular office hours please call +34 665 798 618.


  1. Yet more victims of the collapsed property market in Spain. Many of these people would be able to leave Spain with the proceeds from the sale of their properties if they could actually sell them.

    I feel desperately sorry for anyone in this situation and I am sure there are also younger people who are trapped in Spain with properties they cannot sell or have been declared “illegal” who are prevented from leaving.

  2. if these houses are declared illegal, that means they probably are….how many brits have buils and buils with no permits? house who do not have a cedula ?

  3. Sad story but – Contact PM David Cameron – he undoubtedly knows of this situation and has solutions to this! UK citinzens can then re-immigrate along with the other thousands of NON UK immigrants. UK Immigration is under control.

  4. The Costa de la Luz also forms part of Spain, although it has not been mentioned in this article, and there are many expats living here who would like to return to the UK if they could. And what will happen to all of us living throughout Europe if Britain leaves the EU?

  5. With the greatest respect, those who chose to leave the UK for a better life, should really consider what is actually the better option.

    Pensions and savings are still more valuable in Spain than in the UK, the weather is far superior, the locals are generally more friendly, the lifestyle healthier, why on earth would anyone want to come back to a Country that is being wrecked by the Government.

    Our public services are being eroded at a rate that far exceeded anyones expectations. 25 Fire Stations in London already sold off, 50% of Libraries in Devon to be closed, NHS is being sold off bit by bit, Royal Mail already sold to the Tory elite and their family and friends, by the time disaffected Expats come back to the UK, there will be nothing left.

    Certainly there will be a family network and that is a good thing, the Care system is being underfunded so any savings you do have will have to be spent on inadequate care, staffed by unqualified Eastern Europeans on £6.50ph.

    Be grateful that you had the chance to make enough money to be able to ‘live the dream’, your grand-children have little or no chance of existing in anything other than the rat race, or minimum wage culture that the Government expects its slaves to endure.

    Given the chance to live on a Caravan Park on the outskirts of Benidorm, with an income of just €1,200 a month, I’d jump at it… however, Cornwall is far better than some grotty, inland, boarded up council estate, so why should I complain ?

  6. Mark, I agree with you totally!! But the thing is, you can’t come on this website saying anything positive about living in Spain over the UK. It’s not that kind of website.

  7. Mark of Cornwall, you readily blame the current government but you forget who caused the problem in the first place by spending beyond their means..the Labour government!!. Ed Balls who thinks he knows all the answers was one of the main architects of the crisis.

  8. Sad story. A novel by Gerald Seymour called ‘The Outsiders’ deals with this problem of poverty within the Brit pensioners on the Costa del Sol (in the novel, some of them sell their bodies to the University of Alicante to save money from a funeral).

  9. Having just returned from a week holiday in the UK, I would suggest that ‘Mark of Cornwall’ is on the button. I suspect that many of those that “wish to return” remember the UK as it was before Blair & Brown screwed it up. However misty eyed nostalgia bears no resemblance to the reality of the UK of today.

  10. Each to their own, but many are returning as they cannot afford to stay in Spain with interest rates so low and a lower value pound, many are destitute, in the UK they can get free housing, many pensioners have no home in the UK or Spain and just rent. Maybe some of you can help me out here but I expect the care system for the elderly is better in the UK from a money point of view, attendance allowance, pension credits, housing benefit, home help etc… Like Mark in Cornwall I live in a nice area in the UK but the people who live in bad areas / houses in the UK could not afford to live a good life in Spain anyway. The people I see struggle in Spain are the ones that go there with peanuts in the first place, the ones with good pensions or savings have a life of riley and they have the option to return to their UK home if and when they want to. If you want to come back and do not have a lot of money it is almost impossible as you cannot sell property in Spain unless you cut the price in half and property values in the UK are going in the opposite direction to those in Spain. I have lived in Spain and I cannot say it is cheap to live there, electric is more expensive, heating is not cheap but you use less of it if low down towards sea level in the South, yes if you want to drink loads and smoke much those things are cheaper. If I did live in Spain again I would always have a home in the UK for when I get to the end – I expect there are thousands with this idea now. Much easier for people to rent their UK home, make a profit on it and rent one of the many empty places in Spain for peanuts. Much more pleasant discussion board the last two days, phew it was getting too depressing to read that drivel from our friend and Derek, I have not said anything bad about Spain.

  11. It is very sad the situation of these seniors who want to return to UK. I suppose many of them live in houses. I propose that they might regroup in the same block in an urban area that would be nice for that they would be not so isolated, and where It would be easier receive the care they need.

  12. do the spanish treat the brit pensioners the same as spanish pensioners???….i think not.from what ive seen…i know not.eventhough we suppose to live under the same E.U. flag

  13. “why on earth would anyone want to come back to a Country that is being wrecked by the Government.”

    Perhaps for the reasons the people themselves gave in the study, Mark.

    The government here is not wrecking much here in Spain, is it? See the riots in Madrid last week?

  14. Derek, make a proper reply or continue to look like a fool. The study by Dr Betty interviewed the people in question and the reasons for them wanting to leave were recorded. Why don’t you ask him for the results? Those people must be miserable don’t you think? And do you also think the Rajoy government are doing a great job at the moment? Even the prime minister is corrupt.

  15. Derek, accusing people of enjoying being miserable is a cop out and avoiding the real issues here. Yes, there are a lot of complaints on this website but they are all legitimate complaints, mostly caused by the gross mismanagement of the Spanish authorities and many of them could have been avoided. There is no point in running away from these issues because they are inconvenient and you don’t like bad news stories. Saying and doing nothing is a very dangerous option indeed.

  16. I’ve been censored. You can forget that talk Jane.

    Olive Press’ non freedom of speech editing as usual! Sorry I wasn’t agreeing with blatant negativity.


    What’s the percentage of desperate pensioners in Spain here? Especially compared to desperate pensioners living in the uk with rising gas bills, sitting inside all day in front of a fire, not socialising and sitting outside, walking about.
    Oh no, you can’t do that in a lot of places in the lovely uk can you – especially in cities!

  17. The following is my opinion….
    A lot of people forget that the family network plays a huge role in one’s senior years here. The services we find back in the states do not really exist here so that was something to think about when coming and if I want to stay in my later years. Also how you spend you money plays a factor. I find many live and buy the good life(by that I mean above the means) until cost of care and other factors come into play. Suddenly that disposable income isn’t so disposable. I can truly say that being a non-EU citizen can be a pain as far as issuing visas(and renewals)and NIE bureaucracy; however, due to the fact you have to prove income- how do plan to sustain yourself now and long term; proof of medical coverage and such intense background checks by our government and the Spanish government I (and those I know are) much more prepared to deal with a lot of the issues I find that make mention. Again, I am speaking from my experience.

    I do think there is a lot of Spain bashing and if anyone doesn’t have a bad experience they get jumped on. I wish both sets of experiences were treated equally.

  18. What would be illuminating is, if someone with a partner in dementia and homed in a Spanish establishment, was able and willing to illustrate their experiences.
    For surely, this fate has to be one of the most fearsome human events and must be in the minds of many who wish to return to the U.K. We may prefer not to think in these terms, but for so many of us, living longer, it will one day be our reality. If not that, then almost certainly, physical disability will attend our old age. Will the Spanish state care as well for a foreigner (lacking wealth) as a native?

  19. Some interesting comments, I don’t agree with all of them, especially that the last Labour Govt screwed the UK over. They had to bail out the Banks (a crisis born in the US sub-prime market), this policy was backed by the Tories. Failure to do so would have meant a collapse of the UK banking industry, savings would have been lost, bank accounts frozen or even cleared out, mortgages foreclosed at the drop of a hat… now tell me again how Labour failed to protect the UK taxpayer ?

    Back to the main topic, ONLY 20,000 might consider coming back to the UK ? Not even 1% of the ex-pat community, hardly a story. There are so many disillusioned in the UK, given a choice, I’d suggest that a few million would rather be poor in a nice warm country, than poor and cheesed off in the UK.

  20. I tend to agree with most of what Mark in Cornwall & Derek has said due to my visits to the U.K at least once or twice a year.

    But the most important question I would like to ask ALL THOSE that complain about the life in Spain, and to reply HONESTLY what made you decide to uproot from the WONDERFUL life in the U.K and move to Spain.

    I know what made me decide, and still quite happy after 20 years of living in Spain, but can others.

    I could answer to all the problems that various peoples have listed but it would take too long.

  21. @ Mark of Cornwall…Much as I would be delighted to accept your invitation to verbally demonstrate how Blair & Brown screwed up the UK economy, it would be outside the theme of this report, and enough of that goes on as it is..

    All I was attempting to demonstrate, as others have done here, is that judging from my thrice annual visits there, life in the UK is not the tapestry of rolling green fields full of munching cows and resplendent in the afterglow of ‘land of hope and glory’. And those pensioners who, for whatever reason believe that a return would be of any benefit are deluding themselves. Although clearly, if there are serious end of life health issues, that is a different matter entirely.

  22. The issue is not what we think about life in Spain, it is what the 20,000 people in the survey think, and they are desperate to leave Spain. Quite funny to see people disagreeing with the 20,000 as if they know better as to why they wish to leave. How arrogant is that?

  23. Surveys, surveys, surveys! Lies, damned lies and statistics! Fiddle it as you want, write it as you will!

    That’s the 5% who haven’t sorted out their UKTV box, presumably? I wonder how many of the 5% actually immerse themselves in the Spanish culture and way of life? I’ve seen and heard too many whinging ‘Brits’ ‘bingoing’ in the ex-pat ghettos, complaining about immigration in the UK!

    I’ve had three visits to UK in eight years, the first time it was awful and each subsequent visit was 1000 times worse.

    If you are still blaming ANY political party you just have not woken up to the fact that “Party Politics” is a diversion for the gullible.

    We’re staying here, in Spain, where we can buy superb, natural fresh fruit, veg and meat for very little. If we choose to, we can eat out cheaply and healthily and enjoy the fantastic weather and hospitality.

    Reports like this provide ‘justification’ to the unambitious, stay at home, lard-arses back in ‘good old Blighty’!

  24. @Fred, you said quote:- “See the riots in Madrid last week?

    As usual you tend to omit the riots in the U.K regardless of it’s purpose. Riots are riots whichever term you wish to attach it to.

  25. Without wanting to go off-topic there indeed have been riots in the UK, but when I post on a Spanish blog I try and refer to Spanish issues. I have met lots of people who have said that they will never leave Spain, but then you can never say never I find.

  26. The plight of pensioners wishing to return to the U.K all have their personal reasons and can quite understand it but was also nice to read, on this blog, of at least one person that wishes to remain in Spain.
    Not sure if that person was a pensioner and perhaps many more do not even bother to reply as the fact and the advantages of living in Spain speaks for itself.

    I hope there is a follow up to the article regarding the many more thousands of pensioners that are quite happy living in Spain.

    Quote:- “We’re staying here, in Spain, where we can buy superb, natural fresh fruit, veg and meat for very little. If we choose to, we can eat out cheaply and healthily and enjoy the fantastic weather and hospitality”.

    I had also found while living in the U.K many “so called foreigners” with increasing age wished to return to their native country so as to be close to family but not all pensioners are destitute in Spain and are quite happy to pass away their life in Spain. I for one would be quite contented and no doubt many on this blog has seen the same.

    Gone from destitution to morbid now.

  27. I wonder if the Olive Press could publish the actual survey figures, or a reference to them, which is normal practice, especially when coming out with such a sweeping statement. Also note that Dr. Betty wants to interview anyone contemplating ‘going back’, why doesn’t he also interview those who want to stay? You know, find out why 95% of EX-pat pensioners are happy here?

    Also, when considering any group of people, is 5% an unusually high or low figure for those ‘wanting out’?

    Always different ways of investigating things and describing the results, aren’t there?

  28. I hope the 20,000 pensioners that are ‘desperate’ to leave Spain make it back to the uk and for the right reasons.

    Be interesting to find out though who has regretted moving back to the uk after getting used to a healthier life in Spain – Simple things like being outside more, sitting outside, that you can’t do back in the uk much at times.

    An example is right now when there’s about 7 months of summer ahead.

  29. I’m a couple of years off official retirement age. ‘Touch wood’, I’m still capable of doing a bit to earn a bit. I would also like to think that getting out of the unceasing stress put upon us in work, business, home and socially, in the UK, has helped hugely, along with the simple diet options so easily available here. Of course, we know that stress is the single greatest cause of DIS-EASE and not only is the sun so ‘nice’ to be in it is so incredibly good for our hearts, bodies and minds (when not frying!).

  30. @Eric, have you noticed when (time wise) the Spanish that wish to have a nice tan sunbath at the beach. It’s only the holiday makers that look like boiled crabs. I never sit in the sun but always in the shade.

    It was my son at 16 years old, 40 rears ago that warned me of skin cancer and I have taken to his word ever since.

  31. People are not disagreeing with the 20K that wish to return to the U.K they are just giving their own opinions.

    I believe this column is called READER COMMENTS.

  32. The problems are real, not just for pensioners, but for working age British people in Spain too, outside of the executive “expatriate” class. It’s not a question of whether or not one likes Spain, but rather the problem of “can’t afford to stay, can’t afford to leave”.

    For pensioners, the problem is compounded by the fact that many don’t have a working knowledge of Spanish. Whether they should or not is irrelevant, the fact is they don’t, and that makes it neigh on impossible for them to access – or even be aware of – any help they may be entitled to under the Spanish welfare system. The “Like it or leave” attitude of some other British migrants in Spain only confounds the problem, as many who are struggling are discouraged, or even afraid, of speaking out about their concerns and problems to the migrant community.

    I don’t think there is honestly a great deal that can be done.

  33. Ned,

    The problem is what do the 20K that wish to return to the U.K expect to benefit, perhaps the understanding of the language regarding medical help, although it’s available here.

    If it’s because they find the pension payments inadequate believe me it will not even match the spending power of it in Spain.

    Did you watch BBC1 last night at 10pm (Spanish time). It was called:- “Don’t cut our benefits”. A real eye opener.

    Another program tonight, Friday on Channel 5 & 10pm
    (Spanish time)

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