Farm Ireland

Sunday 16 December 2018

Farmers 'don't want special treatment from Fair Deal'

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Niall O'Connor

The body representing farmers has rejected claims that its members are seeking special treatment out of the review into the 'Fair Deal' scheme.

The Government is set to announce a major overhaul in the coming weeks of 'Fair Deal' - the State-sponsored scheme that provides support for nursing home patients.

The review, being led by the new Minister for Older People Jim Daly, is expected to lead to reduced costs for nursing home care for farmers and small businesses.

However, there is now major concern within Government over the prospect of legal action in the event of the farmers getting a better deal than small business owners.

The Irish Independent revealed last week that the office of the Attorney General (AG) has stepped in to examine the Government's proposals amid fears that legal action could be taken.

Aside from the potential legal ramifications, the Programme for Government states that the coalition intends to "remove discrimination against small business and family farms under the Fair Deal Nursing Home Scheme".

But last night, the Irish Farmers' Association (IFA) insisted that it is not seeking to be prioritised over small businesses.

Maura Canning, the head of the IFA's Farm Family and Social Affairs Committee, told the Irish Independent that its members appreciate the need to ensure all businesses - not just farmers - are treated equally.

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Nonetheless, Ms Canning added that farmers are now being forced to sell off land in order to afford nursing home costs.

"We are not looking for special treatment over small business owners," Ms Canning said.

"But there needs to be a recognition of the fact that people are being forced to sell off a piece or even the whole lot of their land. People are paying through their nose for nursing home care and it needs to be addressed."

Under the scheme at present, a family's payment is calculated based on 80pc of their annual income, as well as a 7.5pc annual charge on their overall assets.

Assets that have been transferred within the previous five years are also means-tested.

Farmers have for months claimed that the scheme in its current form places at risk their efforts to pass the farm onto future generations.

The IFA is due to meet the Government later this month, during which proposed changes to 'Fair Deal' will be discussed.

Irish Independent