Caisse Allocations Familiales - CAF
The CAF is the organisation that deals the various social payments in France, such as the equivalent of child benefit, children’s allowance etc. They also deal with single parent allowances (now incorporated into RSA), rent/mortgage benefits / housing aid (APL or Aide Personalisée au Logement) , new baby/adopted child payments, back to school allowances, low interest loans for home improvements, and many other situations. Most importantly for those on a low income, they are the people to contact about the RSA (Revenu de Solidarité Active, previously RMI, Revenu Minimum d’Insertion)
If you read French, information about all of their services, along with some tests of which you are eligible for, can be found at www.caf.fr
Registering with the CAF is not hard exactly, but time consuming and one of those things where you feel you will never get to the end! They give you a list of paperwork required, which you diligently gather, then when you send that in they realise they have not asked for another piece of paper. Then that one finally arrives, they send you extra forms for clarification purposes! Or they decide they want something translated into French, which might actually not be necessary if you personally take the paper to the office...
The good news is, that in my experience, once you are in their system the CAF are simply excellent. They are one of the few French organisations it’s easy to get in touch with, they advise you which benefits you are entitled to and help you to claim them. However, few of their staff speak English, so if you don’t read or speak good French, chances are you will need some help from time to time.
Also, depending on what you are claiming, your case may have to be referred to the Conseil General of your department for to be assessed individually. This can lead to very long delays, so be prepared to keep chasing and involve your social worker or local politicians if necessary.
Update early 2011 - In recent years the CAF have dealt with paperwork and clients dossiers almost immediately. There’s currently about a three week wait between them receiving and acting on the dossiers, apparently due to higher numbers of claimants and fewer staff.
To find out more about the workings of the CAF, how they apply to you and how I can help you with your dealings with them, please contact me.