Farmers unable to recoup their Fair Deal costs under new law

MINISTER: Jim Daly. Picture: Arthur Carron
MINISTER: Jim Daly. Picture: Arthur Carron
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

A long-awaited change to the Fair Deal nursing home scheme for farmers will not allow them to recoup additional financial contributions made before the new law, it was confirmed yesterday.

The policy change, which will cap the contributions based on farm and business assets at three years where a family successor commits to working the productive asset, has been approved by the Government.

Currently, this three-year cap does not apply to assets such as farms and businesses, forcing some families to get into debt to help pay nursing home fees.

Minister of State Jim Daly said that the changes to the scheme will come into effect as soon as the legislative process is successfully complete.

"The department will progress this as quickly as possible, however, the timeline for completion of the legislation will also depend on how it passes through the Houses," he said in a parliamentary reply to Peter Burke, Fine Gael TD for Longford-Westmeath.

"The general scheme has been sent to the relevant joint committee and the department looks forward to participating in pre-legislative scrutiny in November," he added.

He said it is intended the proposed policy change, the three-year cap, will be extended to eligible existing participants in long-term residential care so that they are not disadvantaged.

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

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There are 700 farmers currently availing of the scheme and 265 were expected to apply for it this year.

The changes to the scheme will cost around €10m more annually.

Meanwhile, people on a waiting list for a nursing home place will benefit from part of the additional €26m which has been made available for the last quarter of this year to reduce the pressure on hospital beds.

As of October 21, there were 433 people on the placement list for a nursing home place, with an average waiting time of four weeks.

Nursing Homes Ireland, which represents private nursing homes, called on the Public Accounts Committee to question the HSE and the Department of Health to achieve full disclosure regarding the costs of bringing HSE nursing homes up to the required regulatory standards.

Some €385m that was earmarked for a revamp of HSE nursing homes, announced in 2016, has escalated and the 2021 deadline for the final work will not now be met, it added.

Irish Independent

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