Revised Fair Deal rules on contribution from farmers to be backdated

Three-year cap on 7.5pc contribution from farmers and small business owners

Taking a stand: The IFA stages a Fair Deal protest at the Department of Health in Baggot Street, Dublin
Taking a stand: The IFA stages a Fair Deal protest at the Department of Health in Baggot Street, Dublin
Caroline ,IFA Farm Family and Social Affairs Chairwoman at the IFA Fair Deal protest at the Dept of Health in Baggot St .
FAIR DEAL: Nursing care. Stock picture
Cormac McQuinn

Cormac McQuinn

The overhaul of the Fair Deal scheme to make it easier for farmers and small business owners to pay for nursing home places will apply retrospectively.

The outline of the long-awaited legislation is expected to be brought to Cabinet for approval on Tuesday.

The current system sees farm families and small business owners required to set aside 7.5pc of the value of their land annually to fund a place in a nursing home.

That will be capped at three years under the proposals being brought to Cabinet by Health Minister Simon Harris and Junior Health Minister Jim Daly, who has responsibility for the legislation.

Meanwhile, the Sunday Independent has learned the measure will also apply retrospectively. That means that once the planned law is implemented, it will apply to existing nursing home residents as well as new entrants.

For instance, if a resident has been living in a nursing home for one year, their family will only have to pay the 7.5pc for another two years. Or if a resident is in a nursing home for more than three years, those 7.5pc payments will cease immediately. They will not be able to recoup contributions made beyond the three-year cap period.

Under the proposals, there will be a number of criteria to be met for nursing home residents and their families to qualify for the three-year cap. It is understood the criteria include rules on the continued operation of the farm or business by a family member over a certain time period.

The Fair Deal overhaul has been in the pipeline for several years but has been hit by repeated delays. Sources could not put a time on when the new law will be implemented, but were confident it will get cross-party cooperation and will be prioritised. Once approved by Cabinet, it will face pre-legislative scrutiny at an Oireachtas committee. The drafting of the full bill will take place simultaneously and there is an expectation that it will go to the Dail and the Seanad in the autumn.

It comes after years of lobbying from farming bodies, which claimed the existing system was a major obstacle to young people taking over the family business.

The reform is aimed at ending scenarios where a farmer or business person delays going into a nursing home - despite needing care - due to fears their assets will be wiped out for their family.

The State spends almost €1bn a year providing nursing home care to older people through the Fair Deal scheme.This figure is expected to rise substantially in coming years due to our 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 already capped at three years, or 22.5pc of the value.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has previously described the legislation to reform Fair Deal as "long promised and long overdue". He said the aim is to "ensure Fair Deal becomes a fairer deal for people who own a small business, and farmers". He said: "We will get it done and see it through".

Separately, a high-level review of the sums paid to nursing homes by the National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF) will recommend consideration of a tiered system which would see increased state funding for higher dependency residents. It would mean more NTPF cash for nursing homes with patients who need enhanced care for conditions such as dementia.

The report comes after a Nursing Home Support Scheme review published in 2015 called for more detailed consideration of the pricing mechanism used by the NTPF.

Nursing Homes Ireland CEO Tadhg Daly, who represents private operators, said his members are frustrated that the report, which he said was due in 2017, is only finished now.

He said if it recommends a more sophisticated method of payments to the current system it is to be welcomed, but he also cautioned "the devil will be in the detail".

Sunday Independent