Fair Deal overhaul to be brought to Cabinet
NEW legislation that will make it easier for farmers and small business owners to pay for a nursing home place will finally be brought to Cabinet this month.
The overhaul of the Fair Deal scheme has been in the pipeline for several years but has been hit by repeated delays.
Minister of State Jim Daly is now understood to be in the final stages of the process before seeking formal Government approval.
Under the current regime, farm families and small business owners are required to set aside 7.5pc of the value of their land annually to fund a place in a nursing home.
The minister is set to cap this at three years.
This will give farmland and business assets the same status as the family home.
Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has described the legislation as "long promised and long overdue".
He said that the aim is to "ensure that the Fair Deal becomes a fairer deal for people who own a small business, and farmers".
"We will get it done and see it through.
"The Minister of State, Deputy Daly, assures me that the heads will be before Cabinet in the month of June," Mr Varadkar has said.
Once ministers give the green light, officials in the Department of Health will then proceed to drafting the full legislation, which will be published and brought before the Dáil.
It comes after years of lobbying from farming bodies, which have claimed that the existing system was a major obstacle to young people taking over the family business.
The proposal to limit the amount paid by business owners will have implications for the budget of the Fair Deal scheme and will therefore be carefully scrutinised by Finance Minister Paschal Donohoe.
However, the Government views the move as a "pro-rural Ireland" measure.
The State spends almost €1bn annually providing nursing home care to older people though the Fair Deal scheme, and this figure is expected to rise substantially in the coming years due to the country's ageing population.
Under Fair Deal, a person pays 80pc of their total income, such as a pension, to help fund their care.
On top of this they commit 7.5pc of the value of their assets as a yearly contribution.
In the case of the family home, the contribution is capped at three years, or 22.5pc of the value.
At present, a farmer or a business person's other assets, such as land, are hit with a 7.5pc charge every year for an indefinite time period.