Who can help?
Whether home is amidst the cobblestone streets of Paris or the lavender fields of Provence, surrounded by science and technology in Toulouse or high on a snowy Alpine peak, one thing that we all have in common in our lives in France is the daily brush with French Administration. Sometimes that regular encounter becomes more complicated due to age, illness or language barriers or perhaps we’re presented with an entirely new complication and we’re left wondering ‘who can help?’
The heart of the matter
Our first port of call is often the Mairie. We don’t all live in tiny villages where everyone knows everyone but whatever the size of your commune, the Maire is at the heart of it and is responsible for its smooth running.
This link talks about the Maire’s responsibilities and obligations: https://www.cohesion-territoires.gouv.fr/boite-outils-des-elus, and states:
"Competences extend to the fields of security, social and health action, employment, education, children and youth, sports, cultural action, tourism, vocational training and apprenticeship, support for economic activities, town planning, planning and development, housing and habitat, environment and heritage, waste management, water and sanitation, networks and telecommunications, energy, ports and waterways, aerodromes, public and school transport, and finally, funeral matters."
(Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version))
When faced with a language barrier, DeepL Translate is a useful online translation tool. Copy and paste for a quick and highly accurate translation. It’s also possible to write a text in the box and choose to translate it when an email or letter needs to be sent in French. It’s also useful to translate and copy out an explanation when you have a question to ask, perhaps for one of the following services.
A one-stop shop
By 2022, every canton in France will have at least one France Service public service centre. Covering health, family, retirement, law, housing, tax, job search, digital support, these free at the point of service one-stop centres, have France Service agents ready to assist you with all your daily administrative procedures.
Creating an email address, printing or scanning, simulating benefits, creating your log-in details to access the online public service... France Services staff will help you use IT tools and carry out your daily digital procedures.
To resolve your most complex procedures, the agents can also call on their correspondents within the network of partners.
A sense of community
If you live in a larger commune, you may have access to the CCAS (Centres Communaux d’Action Sociale). Created to support all the inhabitants of a commune, they are particularly involved with children and youth, people with disabilities and with the elderly.
Looking at all issues to combat exclusion and provide access to rights, they can support and advise on housing issues, food aid, fuel poverty, debt management and many other of the problems that life can present us with.
You can find your local CCAS by asking at the Mairie: Le centre communal d’action sociale (CCAS) / la Mairie
Providing information and support for people with disabilities is the role of the MPDH (Maison Départementale du Handicap). Whether you need to apply for the French equivalent of the UK's blue badge, the carte mobilité inclusion (CMI) or require full support to reorganise your life with a new disability, the MDPH can help to synchronise the actions required and organisations involved towards more comfort and autonomy.
Register at your local branch here:
Making a difference
The social worker or Assistante Sociale supports people who are experiencing economic, social or psychological difficulties often, but not always, working with the elderly. A social worker can be contacted in a number of ways, often via the CCAS, the Mairie or during a stay at the hospital:
Looking beyond the community
Sometimes solutions need to be looked for on a different scale. Depending on the problem, solutions can be found …
Consumer affairs ombudsman
If you wish to contest the management fees from your bank; if your landlord refuses to return your deposit; if you can’t find a way to cancel an insurance policy… There is an out-of-court solution when you find yourself in disagreement with a company or professional in the context of the execution of a contract of sale or provision of services.
The first action to take is to make your complaint to the professional in writing and send this by registered delivery. If this doesn’t solve the issue, and within a year of the complaint, then you can contact the relevant consumer affairs ombudsman (Médiateur de la Consommation). More information here:
The relevant ombudsman should be clearly marked on the website or literature of the company that you’re in dispute with; however, this is not always so. The French Government website provides a list of contact details though:
Defending your rights
In a situation where your rights have not been respected, where you’ve been unfairly discriminated against or where a public order representative (police, border guard) or a private security agent has not respected the rules of good conduct; when there have been difficulties with a public service such as CPAM or the Pôle Emploi; when children’s rights are not respected then the Défenseur des Droits provides a free service to resolve these issues:
As British nationals, we are no longer European citizens but as residents in an EU country we can call on Your Europe Advice with questions about living, studying, working, shopping, travelling – or, as a company, doing business – within the EU.
Your Europe Advice is a team of legal experts who can communicate with you in English and who are familiar both with EU law and French law. They can answer questions on a huge range of subjects and inform you of any next steps that you may need to take to resolve an issue.