Minister for Mental Health and Older People welcomes the commencement today of the Nursing Homes Support Scheme (Amendment) Act, 2021
The Minister for Mental Health and Older People, Mary Butler TD, has welcomed the commencement today of the Nursing Homes Support Scheme (Amendment) Act, 2021 which will enhance protections for family farms and businesses.
The legislation, which was signed into law on 22nd July 2021, having passed all stages in the Dáíl and the Seanad, provided for changes made under the Act to come into operation 90 days from its enactment.
The primary amendment to the Scheme (more commonly known as the Fair Deal Scheme) will mean that after a period of three years, when calculating the cost of a person’s nursing home care, the value of family-owned farms and businesses will no longer be taken into account. This will happen where a family successor commits to working the farm or business for a period of six years from the date of their appointment.
Minister Butler said: “I am absolutely delighted to have delivered on this important and historic piece of legislation. This has been a hugely emotive issue for farm families and business owners across Ireland. The implementation of the 2021 Act today marks a huge milestone in enhancing protections for these families under the Scheme. The changes brought forward by this amendment will alleviate a lot of the unnecessary financial pressures placed on families under the previous Scheme and will ensure the viability and sustainability of family farms and businesses for the generations that follow.”
The 2021 Act will also extend the existing three-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 a home left vacant after they enter residential care, an important consideration in the context of the current housing crisis.
Additional changes include the introduction of the right for any individual, when attending an interview under the Scheme, to be accompanied by another person over 18 years of age.
Minister Butler continued: “These measures will ensure the accessibility and affordability of the Scheme for more farm and business owning families. I will continue to liaise closely with the Department and the HSE to ensure the full and effective implementation of the 2021 Act. As part of Budget 2022, I secured significant additional funding for the HSE to operationalise this important piece of legislation. The changes provided for under the Act will ensure that Fair Deal is a fair deal for all.”
Notes to editor:
- The Nursing Home Support Scheme Amendment Bill (2021) was signed into law by President Higgins on 22 July, with provision for enactment 90 days later on 20 October.
- As of September 2021, there were 22,108 people participating in the Scheme at an annual cost of just over €1 billion.
- Participants in the Scheme contribute up to 80% of their assessable income and a maximum of 7.5% per annum of the value of assets held. In the case of a couple, the applicant’s means are assessed as 50% of the couple’s combined income and assets. The first €36,000 of an individual’s assets, or €72,000 in the case of a couple, is not counted at all in the financial assessment.
- 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.
- 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. In the previous iteration of the Scheme, this 3-year cap did not apply to productive assets such as farms and businesses, except in the case where a farmer or business owner suffered a sudden illness or disability and as a result requires nursing home care.
- This Amendment addresses 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.
- Effective from October 20, financial contributions based on farm and business assets are capped at three years, where a nominated family successor commits to working the productive asset for a period of 6 years.
- Effective from October 20, the existing 3-year cap on contributions to the cost of care based on the value of a principal residence extends to the proceeds from the sale of that residence. As well as introducing further fairness – by treating the home and its proceeds in a similar way – in the context of the housing crisis, it removes a disincentive to selling a vacant home when someone moves to long-term care.