We tend to think of the scope of our problem space as being rhetorically ‘government’ (by which all too often is meant ‘central government’) and practically DWP.  Here is just one way in which that perception is going to need to change:

I’ve been trying to interest people in a citizen information need which really exists and which is almost totally unmet.

As you’ll expect, it’s benefit related but it maps directly onto cross-border mobility issues which have been a, publicly expressed, major driver for EU policies.

If I am born in the UK, have moved to Luxembourg, am thinking of working in Spain and want to retire to Italy, I may have some questions I’d like to ask. What happens if I get ill in Luxembourg? What will happen if I have an industrial accident in Spain? What are my pension rights in Italy after working in so many countries?

This is pretty comprehensively agreed between states for both insurance based and safety net benefits but nobody can give quick, practical guidance to citizens.

We could produce an application that would do this at an exceedingly reasonable cost – but who would pay? It’s not something that any country’s administration sees as a part of their responsibility, particularly where their own state isn’t one of the countries in the group that the enquirer is interested in. The EU might fund it if there were enough partners in states to meet their requirements. THe problem there, of course, is that there isn’t a natural body in many of the countries that gives that kind of advice.

The UK has a remarkably strong advice sector compared to most of the rest of Europe, so you could point to CABx, LA advice agencies, Law Centres etc. In the rest of the EU it’s not so easy; in Southern Europe much of the social support work comes from the church, in the north there are trade unions. Some social security administrations ‘do’ advice, many don’t. Any decent system of this sort will, of course, work just as well for people who stay in one country all their lives and that may be seen as interference with internal affairs, etc.

The question is this; is there, or should there be, somebody with the duty to identify and drive these sorts of issues and, if so, who and where?


Any thoughts on what the answers might be?