Minister Butler Welcomes the Passing of the Nursing Homes Support Scheme (Amendment) Bill 2021 through both Houses of the Oireachtas
The Minister of State for Mental Health and Older People, Mary Butler TD, has today 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.
The Bill will amend the Nursing Homes Support Scheme, commonly known as 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.
Minister Butler 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”.
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.
The Minister continued “that progressing this Bill, as quickly as possible, has been an absolute priority for me since I was appointed last July”. This has been a hugely emotive issue for farm families and business owners in communities across Ireland and one that the Programme for Government sought to deliver on. I am delighted to have now made this critical step forward with the full passage of this historic piece of legislation.”
Minister Butler concluded that “the Bill received broad, cross-party support and I would like to thank all Oireachtas colleagues who have engaged with this Bill and for supporting it through the Houses of the Oireachtas. I would also like to thank the many non-government stakeholders who have contributed to the development of this legislation, including advocacy groups and organisations representing older people. I am fully committed to the timely and effective commencement of this legislation.”
Notes to editor:
- The Nursing Homes Support Scheme has been in operation since 2009.
- As of 31st December 2020, there were 22,755 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. 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.
- The proposed change is to cap financial contributions based on farm and business assets at three years, where a nominated family successor commits to working the productive asset for a period of 6 years.
- The Bill also extends the existing 3-year cap on contributions to the cost of care based on the value of a principal residence 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.