THE Bill will amend the Nursing Homes Support Scheme, which was established in 2009, commonly known as The Fair Deal, to enhance protections for family farms and businesses.
This change to the Scheme will mean that after a period of 3 years, the value of family-owned farms and businesses will no longer be taken into account when calculating the cost of a person’s nursing home care. This will happen where a family successor commits to working the farm or business.
Willie O’Dea TD, has welcomed the passage through all stages of Dáil Eireann and Seanad Éireann of the Nursing Homes Support Scheme (Amendment) Bill 2021. The Bill will now be sent to the President for signature.
Willie O’Dea TD stated that “this change is essential to the viability and sustainability of family farms and businesses, allowing them to be passed down to the next generation. Ultimately, the Bill seeks to alleviate any unnecessary financial pressures placed on these families by updating the current law. It will ensure that ‘Fair Deal’ is fair for all, enhancing accessibility and affordability of the scheme for more farm and business owning families”.
As of 31st December 2020, there were 22,755 people participating in the Scheme at an annual cost of just over €1 billion.
The overall aim of the Nursing Homes Support Scheme is that participants contribute to the cost of their care according to their means, while the State pays the balance of the cost. Where an individual’s assessed weekly contribution is greater than the cost of care, they do not qualify for financial support. Therefore, applicants to the Scheme with substantial assets or incomes are unlikely to qualify for financial support.
The Bill will also extend the existing 3 year cap on contributions to the cost of care to the proceeds of sale of a person’s principal residence. This is consistent with the scheme’s core principle of fairness, by treating the home and its proceeds of sale in a similar way. It is intended that this change will also remove any disincentive for people who want to sell their vacant home while in Fair Deal, an important consideration in the context of the housing crisis.
Additional changes in the Bill include the introduction of the right for any person, when attending an interview under the Scheme, to be accompanied by another person over 18 years of age. There is also provision for the Bill, once enacted, to come into operation within 90 days.
Deputy O’Dea concluded, “Progressing this Bill as quickly as possible has been an absolute priority for the Government. This has been a hugely emotive issue for farm families and business owners in communities in Limerick and across Ireland and one that the Programme for Government sought to deliver on.”