WATCH: 'Government see elderly as 'soft touch'- IFA stage protest on injustices of Fair Deal Scheme
A farmer who spoke out on how the delay in implementing the three-year cap on farm assets under the Fair Deal scheme may result in him having to sell his farm has said that the government is “bleeding elderly people to death because they view them as a soft touch”.
Speaking at an IFA protest at the Department of Health in Dublin today drystock farmer Joe Carroll explained that he is facing selling his farm in Kilcormac, Co Offaly to pay for nursing home care for his wife Jane who has MS.
He called on Minister for Older People Jim Daly to commit to the promise made last July to implement the three year cap and save farmers livelihoods from becoming unviable due to the cost of nursing home care.
“I’m overwhelmed by the turnout here today. I knew I wasn’t alone. If the Minister is listening he needs to move the legislation on and take the stress out of it for people. I've been under tremendous stress but I try to stay positive and stick with it. It will happen but the financial stress it is hitting me terribly,” he said.
“Huge finance has gone to the nursing home. It can’t go on. We need to keep the pressure on. Why drag it out, it isn’t fair, the government is bleeding us to death. There seems to be an idea with the government that it can use the old folk because we are a soft touch.”
IFA president Joe Healy stated that he said it is now nearly nine months since Cabinet approved the proposal to introduce a three-year cap on farms and small businesses assets, where a family successor commits to continue to farm the asset for a period of six years.
He called on the government to live up to its commitment because farmers are living in fear that they will have to sell their farm to cover mounting nursing home fees.
“The money is running out for farmers in some cases and the fear and the threat of having to sell some or all of their land is causing huge stress on those farms and causing huge difficulties in relation to identifying a successor,” said Mr Healy.
“No young person wants to be burdened with the level of debt that this puts around the farm.”
IFA Family Farm Chair Caroline Farrell added in the time since Cabinet approved the proposal, it has cost individual farm families an estimated €40,000 in nursing home costs and that IFA will keep fighting until the legislation gets over the finish line.
“It’s an issue for all farmers, nobody knows then an illness could strike where we will need nursing home care. The delay is creating anxiety and uncertainty for farm families that the viability of their farm will be undermined with the cost of nursing home fees,” explained Ms Farrell.
“This is a clear message that farm families want action and the turn out here today during a busy time on farms shows the frustration and the exasperation of the ongoing delay introducing these changes.”
Meanwhile, the Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has moved to allay fears that the scheme is not going to run out of money.
Mr Varadkar was replying to Dáil questions from Fianna Fáil leader, Micheál Martin, who said he knew one case where funding was approved for an elderly person. But six weeks later the money still had not materialised.
“It suggests, Taoiseach, that the allocation has already been used up,” Mr Martin said.
On Tuesday the Irish Independent reported that the HSE were acknowledging that demand for the elderly care fund scheme was significantly increased – and at higher than expected levels.
The HSE said they were monitoring the spending on a weekly basis.
But the Taoiseach said that the fund had almost €1bn for 2019.
“I can assure you it has not been all used up,” the Taoiseach told the Fianna Fáil leader.
Mr Varadkar said he could not comment on an individual case with which he was not familiar in detail.