Minister for Mental Health and Older People announces plans to extend Nursing Homes Support Scheme to benefit farmers at National Ploughing Championships 2023
Minister for Mental Health and Older People Mary Butler has announced plans to amend the Nursing Homes Support Scheme to broaden the definition of who could act as the family successor, to improve the viability and sustainability of family farms and businesses.
To support farmers, in July 2021 Minister Butler brought the Homes Support Scheme (Amendment) Bill 2021 through the Houses of the Oireachtas.
This change to the Scheme means that after a period of 3 years, the value of family-owned farms and businesses will no longer be considered 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.
The Act extends the existing 3-year cap on contributions to the cost of care to the proceeds of sale of a person’s principal residence. It is intended that this change will remove any disincentive for people who want to sell their vacant home while in Fair Deal.
Speaking at the National Ploughing Championships, Minister Butler, said:
"The 2021 Act amended the Nursing Homes Support Scheme, commonly known as Fair Deal, to enhance protections for family farms and businesses. This introduced a three-year cap on contributions from family farm and business assets, provided that a family successor is appointed to run the asset for at least 6 years and other conditions are met.
“I’m pleased my officials in the Department of Health are now in the process of further amending the Nursing Homes Support Scheme to broaden the definition of who could act as the family successor. Even though cousins have been the main request for inclusion, to avoid challenges and to be consistent, all family members with an equivalent order of relationship to the resident will be included. This would expand those eligible to act as family successor to cousins, great-nephews and great-nieces, and great-grandchildren of either the resident or their partner.
“This change is again essential to the viability and sustainability of family farms and businesses. Ultimately, it seeks to alleviate any unnecessary financial pressures placed on these families by updating the 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. The amendment also provides for the withdrawal or lapsing of an application to address unintended outcomes in relation to the provision for transferred assets.”
As people wish to age at home in their communities, an additional €228 million in funding has been provided for home support. In 2023 the overall home care budget is €723 million. This will enable the HSE to progress the development of a reformed model of service delivery to underpin the statutory scheme for the financing and regulation of home support services and fund 22 million hours of home support this year. The dementia-specific proportion of new home support hours will increase from 5% in 2021 to 15% in 2023.
Minister Butler has also been very proactive in ensuring that dementia-specific care is recognised and properly resourced, to this end €2.1 million was secured for dementia-specific community day services.
Further support that this Government has provided has been the allocation of €5.25 million funding for Meals on Wheels and Day Centres for older people to organisations across the country. This is focused on supporting people to age in place at home in their community with access to these critical wraparound supports.
Minister Butler recognises that access to day centres can make an important contribution by providing invaluable support, advice and social interaction for older people who may, for any number of reasons, be experiencing isolation and loneliness.
Older people also benefit from increased physical activity, cognitive stimulation, enhanced nutrition, health care monitoring and social work support. Day centres are also an important indirect resource for carers.
Meeting farmers at the Ploughing, Minister Butler also reiterated the importance of people talking openly about their mental health needs and getting support from family, friends, and mental health services, saying:
“It is important that there are more conversations to challenge the stigma around mental health, especially in the farming community. Rural isolation and loneliness are real issues. Often, people find it difficult to have conversations about their feelings and it is important that we break down that stigma so that they can feel more comfortable seeking support. Anyone can experience mental health challenges at any time during their lives.
“Organisations such as the IFA, ICA, Macra na Feirme, Teagasc, Coillte, Mental Health Ireland and SeeChange, play a vital role here in contributing to the sustainable development of rural communities including supporting mental health and well-being initiatives. This year is the 11th year of the SeeChange Green Ribbon campaign which aims to promote awareness about mental health difficulties and to help end stigma and discrimination.
Green Ribbon Talk and Walks provide opportunities for people to take time out, socialise with others outdoors and share experiences. The Green Bale Wrap allows farmers to engage in an important and visible expression of support to promote positive mental health. It is so important that we continue to look after each other, to ensure nobody is forgotten and that anyone experiencing mental health difficulties is supported to enjoy a full and meaningful life.”
Social Farming Ireland provides people who use services with the opportunity for inclusion, to increase self-esteem and to improve health and well-being by taking part in day-to-day farm activities on a family farm. https://www.socialfarmingireland.ie/
Embrace FARM – the farm accident support network – provide the ‘Encircle’ Programme’ to support farm families in the aftermath of a sudden accident or trauma on the family farm. https://embracefarm.com/
Notes to editor:
- 24-hour support is always available from Samaritans (Freephone 116 123), Pieta (Freephone 1800 247 247) and Text About It (Text HELLO to 50808).
- Information on other mental health supports and services is available on yourmentalhealth.ie.
- You can also call the HSE Your Mental Health Information Line on 1800 111 888 anytime day or night, for information on mental health services in your area.
- The HSE Social Prescribing Service connects individuals with activities and supports in their area including walking and running groups, reading groups, self-help, adult education, men’s/women’s sheds, gardening, arts and creativity. Further information about social prescribing services available can be found here.
- Information booklets on mental health and suicide prevention (including ‘Farm and Rural Stress: Help is at Hand’) are available from the HSE National Office for Suicide Prevention (NOSP) https://www.hse.ie/eng/services/list/4/mental-health-services/nosp/resources/booklets/booklets.html
- Information on the Green Ribbon Campaign is available from See Change https://seechange.ie/green-ribbon/
- Proceeds of Sale of Principal Residence.
- The NHSS currently supports about 22,500 people. Around 80% of those are supported in private nursing homes, with the remainder in public HSE-run facilities. Both systems are funded through the NHSS.
- Overall, €1.4 billion of the total Health Budget was allocated last year to support over 22,700 people under Fair Deal. This will increase to nearly €1.5 billion for 2023.
- 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 capital value of an individual’s principal private residence is only included in the financial assessment for the scheme for the first 3 years of their time in care. This is known as the 3-year cap. Currently, this unqualified 3-year cap does not apply to productive assets such as farms and businesses, except in the case where a farmer or business owner suffers a sudden illness or disability and as a result requires nursing home care.
- This Bill seeks to address this issue by introducing additional safeguards in the Scheme to further protect the viability and sustainability of family farms and businesses that will be passed down to the next generation of the family.