Family-owned farms and businesses will no longer be taken into account when calculating the cost of a person’s nursing home care under legislation due to come into force.
The Nursing Homes Support Scheme (Amendment) Bill 2021 has passed through all stages of the Houses of the Oireachtas and will now be sent to the president for signature.
The bill will amend the nursing homes support scheme, commonly known as the “Fair Deal Scheme”, to protect family farms and businesses from being considered when calculating the costs of nursing home care where a family successor commits to working the farm or business.
Mary Butler, Minister of State for mental health and older people, said: “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 three-year cap on contributions to the cost of care to the proceeds of the sale of a person’s principal residence. It is intended that this change will also remove any disincentive for people who want to sell their vacant home while in Fair Deal.
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 a provision for the bill, once enacted, to come into operation within 90 days.
Ms Butler continued: “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. 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.”