Senior citizens who need domestic and personal assistance may be entitled to help from their departmental council.
Benefits for Home Help
Depending on your circumstances, there are several different benefits and services available, and it is a confusing picture for those who need to make use of them.
The most widely known form of assistance is a tax break for domestic services, called the crédit d’impôt emploi domicile.
Separately from this support there is a range of social security benefits for elderly persons who may be struggling to perform routine domestic tasks around the home.
The two main social benefits are:
- Allocation Personnalisée d'Autonomie (APA)
- L’Aide-Ménagère à Domicile
Allocation Personnalisée d'Autonomie (APA)
APA exists primarily to provide domiciliary care to individuals over 60 years of age suffering health problems so that they can remain in their home.
The service provides personal assistance with the toilet, washing and dressing, meals on wheels, etc, in addition to routine domestic tasks.
If medical treatment is needed, this will be provided separately through community nursing staff from the Services de Soins infirmiers à domicile (SSIA), part of the health service.
Where necessary, aids and adaptations can also be arranged, once again through separate financing arrangements.
The benefit is subject to a professional needs assessment made in your home by an official from the departmental council.
In some cases, APA can be payable to institutions, such as nursing homes, or to close relatives.
The amount currently payable ranges from €674 to €1,742 a month, depending on need.
Although the benefit is not means-tested, if you have an income above €813 per month you will required to make a contribution to the service. The level of the contribution varies by income, but can be up to 90% of the benefit payable if your income is €3,000 a month or more.
To make application for APA you can make contact with the social services centre (Centre Communal d’Action Sociale - CCAS) of your municipal council, but you might be better advised to discuss it with your doctor/community nurse, who is likely to be in the best position to set in motion the various services.
Aide-Ménagère a Domicile
In contrast, aide-ménagèr à domicile provides elderly persons with financial assistance for merely housekeeping chores.
The benefit is available, under qualifying conditions, to anyone who is legally resident in France.
The beneficiary must be:
- At least 65 years of age, although a claim from 60 years of age will be considered if you are officially recognised as having an incapacity that prevents you from working;
- Incapable of being able to cope with certain categories of household work;
- In receipt of a monthly income of less than €903 for a single person or €1,402 for a couple;
- Not in receipt of the APA.
APA is, to all intents and purposes, a loan. When the recipient dies, if the balance of their estate exceeds €46,000, the authorities will (or may) try to recover all or part of the contributions they have made over time from the estate’s balance. This process is highly complex and controversial.
Applying for Aide-Ménagère a Domicile
The official route to obtain aide-ménagèr is to contact your local social services centre, called a Centre Communal d’Action Sociale - CCAS.
The CCAS service is run by the local mairie, or, increasingly in rural areas, by the inter-communal council or body.
There is no obligation on a local council with fewer than 1,500 inhabitants to have an CCAS, but there are few areas where there is no such service in place.
As a result, it is difficult to generalise on the quality of the service performed by the mairie; some have an excellent reputation, whilst others may offer only a minimal service.
Once again, as with APA, in practice, it is not unusual that the organisation of home-help services is facilitated through your local doctor, who may make a recommendation to the relevant authorities, or even directly with one of the service providers.
You will need to complete an application form, produce a range of documentation, and receive a home visit.
The level of financial support is set by the departmental council. Many departments do not publish the level of the benefit they offer.
Whatever their contribution, you will typically be asked to make a contribution towards the cost of the service. Some departments may operate on the basis of asking you to contribute 20% of the hourly rate paid to the contractor.
As hourly service rates might be €25 per hour in areas outside the major cities, you may be expected to pay €5 per hour towards the cost.
The number of hours per month for which assistance can be provided is capped at 30 hours for a single person and 48 hours for a couple.
Many departments also cap their contribution to a maximum amount per annum for an individual; a maximum of circa €1,800 per year is not uncommon.
If you find you are ineligible, or your request is declined, if you are in receipt of a French pension you can approach your caisse de retraite. They may be able to assist by offering a subset of home help through financial contributions.
The rules that apply vary, depending on the pension fund.
While the caisse may be able to offer financial assistance with aspects of home help, their services do not correspond exactly to those available through the departmental aide-ménagèr service.
The councils do not themselves provide the home-help service, and neither may they be able or willing to assist you in finding a service provider.
For that you need to find provider, known collectively as Services d’Aide et d’Accompagnement à Domicile (SAAD), or Service d'Aide à Domicile. They will engage the person who will assist you.
The providers are generally - but not in every case - non-profit making bodies.
Where the provider offers personal services, such as dressing, washing and meal preparation they must be accredited by the departmental council. Where the services offered are merely domestic tasks such as cleaning, gardening etc, then they are simply required to make a declaration to the council. The best providers will be able to provide certification of the quality of the services they offer.
If you are left to your own devices, the process of finding and selecting a suitable provider can be difficult, particularly in rural areas; all of them have problems recruiting suitable staff.
A list of the providers by geographic area can be found at Annuaire Organismes Services a la Personne.
Assuming your application is approved, the financial contribution towards your aide-ménagèr will usually be paid directly to the service provider, with you paying the balance.
It is also possible for you to engage directly your own home help. Indeed, where there are no conveniently located approved service providers it may be the only solution.
However, you then have all the responsibilities that go with being an employer, although you may be able to engage a local service to assist you with administration.