Fair Deal legislation for farm families due within weeks

A number of safeguards have been put in place to ensure the system cannot be abused under the new Fair Deal overhaul
A number of safeguards have been put in place to ensure the system cannot be abused under the new Fair Deal overhaul
Margaret Donnelly

Margaret Donnelly

Legislation that will bring ease the burden of nursing home fees on farm families is due before the Dail within weeks.

New fair deal legislation, which will reduce the burden on farm families facing crippling nursing home fees, is expected before the Dail in the coming weeks.

While an announcement had been expected in this week's budget, sources within the Minister of State for Mental Health and Older People said that the legislative change to the scheme is being finalised with the Head of Bill to the legislation will be put before cabinet for debate in the coming weeks.

It's understood that civil servants are currently sitting down with the HSE to finalise the changes needed to bring farm families into line with current legislation govening the terms and conditions of the scheme. As it stands farm families do no quality for a three-year cap on farm assets.

Currently, farm families have had to pay 7.5pc of the farm's value indefinitely to pay nursing home fees for elderly family members.

It's understood that with the changes, applicants will not have to wait longer than four weeks to access the scheme.

Fair Deal Explainer

What is Fair Deal?

Fair Deal is the shorthand for the ‘The Nursing Homes Support Scheme’, which provides financial assistance for people who require long-term nursing home care. It is operated by the HSE.

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The scheme covers private, voluntary and public nursing homes.

What sort of financial assistance does it provide?

An assessment of all your income and assets is carried out in order to work out what your contribution to your care will be.

The HSE will then pay the balance of your cost of the care.

There are two elements to your contribution.

You will pay 80pc of your income (eg a pension) and 7.4pc of the value of your assets every year towards your care.

If your assets include land and/or residential property in the State, the 7.5pc contribution based on those assets can be deferred.

This means it does not have to be paid during your lifetime and will be collected from your estate.

Is the family home included in my assets under Fair Deal?

A person’s principle residence will be counted as an asset, but only for the first three years.

This is known as the 22.5pc, or ‘three-year’ cap.

Why have farmers and small business owners been unhappy?

Lobby groups have argued that the family farm and in some cases business should also qualify for the three-year cap.

They have said that by forcing somebody to pay 7.5pc of the farm’s value indefinitely this affects the ability of young people to take over the family business.

Minister Jim Daly (inset) will today propose that the three-year cap is applied to farms and businesses if they continue to be operated by a close relative.

Couldn’t this system be abused?

The minister plans to introduce a number of safety mechanisms, including a ‘claw-back’ rule that will allow the State to recoup some funds if the land is sold within six years.

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