Brexit blamed for delay on new Fair Deal for farmers

Planned changes to the Fair Deal scheme have been delayed. (Stock photo)
Planned changes to the Fair Deal scheme have been delayed. (Stock photo)
Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

Brexit has been blamed for the delay in introducing an amended Fair Deal nursing home scheme for farmers.

The Government has stated that changes to the Fair Deal scheme - limiting contributions to the scheme from farm assets to a maximum of three years - would be introduced in 2019.

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However, the Department of Health has said that it will be the end of the year at the earliest before the necessary legislation is ready to extend the full terms of the scheme to farmers and business owners.

It said the Government's focus on Brexit was a factor for the delays in drafting legislation for an amended Fair Deal scheme.

In response to queries from the Farming Independent, the Department of Health said that while it is working on the draft legislation to amend the Fair Deal terms for farmers, a number of complex policy and operational matters need to be addressed in the proposed legislation.

It is intended that this proposed policy change - the three-year cap on Fair Deal payments from farm assets - will be extended to eligible existing participants in long-term residential care so that they are not disadvantaged.

However, the Department added that there would be no retrospective recoupment of contributions for those who have paid contributions over and above the three-year period.

"The general scheme of a bill has been drafted and we are currently working closely with legal advisers on advice and legal quality control," said a Department ­spokesman.

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Emergency funding

Figures from the Department show that extending full access for the scheme to include farmers will cost the Government up to €10m a year.

The full-year cost of capping contributions from farm assets is estimated at €7.3m for 2019 and it is estimated that the cost will increase to €10.6m per annum after this point.

If Fair Deal exceeds its allocated budget this year, it is expected the Minister for Older People Jim Daly will be forced to seek emergency extra funding from the Department of Health.

Mr Daly said demand for the scheme was "outside of expectations in the year so far" and he has requested more data.

The HSE confirmed that it is "currently experiencing increased demand for the Fair Deal scheme".

It added: "Activity levels are being monitored on a weekly basis and the HSE is in ongoing contact with the Department of Health."

Farmers took to the streets two weeks ago to protest against the impact the Fair Deal scheme terms are having on farm families and succession planning.

Over 23,200 people are currently availing of the Fair Deal scheme.

The scheme's budget was increased by €24.3m to €985.8m this year.

Indo Farming