Saturday 21 April 2018

Fair Deal scheme faces review as up to a quarter of people under-declare assets

A review of the scheme in 2015 found major weaknesses in the means-testing of residents who apply for it (Stock picture)
A review of the scheme in 2015 found major weaknesses in the means-testing of residents who apply for it (Stock picture)
Charlie Weston

Charlie Weston

The Department of Health is reviewing the operation of the Fair Deal scheme to ensure people do not deliberately under-declare their assets.

Part of the value of homes and farms, and other assets, are used to part fund care under the Fair Deal nursing-home care scheme.

But a recent Department of Health review found that up to a quarter of Fair Deal participants under-declare assets.

Some 23,000 people are signed up for the Fair Deal nursing home support scheme.

This means that as many as 9,000 people may have given incorrect financial details to the HSE, which are then used to calculate how much they should contribute to the cost of their care.

Most of the under-declared assets are bank deposits and investments.

Some of the under-declaration may be down to honest mistakes. But the HSE warned that it is an offence to provide false information to gain from the scheme.

A review of the scheme in 2015 found major weaknesses in the means-testing of residents who apply for it.

The scheme largely relies on the honesty of applicants to make financial declarations of what they have in assets and cash.

The 2015 report examined schedules of assets after nursing-home residents had died.

"A sample survey carried out by the HSE showed that in 30pc of the cases where a schedule of assets was available, almost a quarter had under-declared cash assets," the review said.

Cash assets are defined by the HSE as bank deposits, loans make to others, shares and investments. It excludes property.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said a working group, made up of various State agencies and departments, has been set up in response to the 2015 review to implement changes.

"An interdepartmental/agency working group has been established to progress certain review recommendations, and work on implementing these improvements is well under way by the HSE," the spokeswoman said.

It was not the case that there was any clampdown on Fair Deal residents, but a review of the operation of the scheme was necessary, she said.

Under the Fair Deal scheme part of the value of assets, such as a home and investments, are taken to fund the cost of care.

No more than 22.5pc of all assets can be used to part-fund the cost of care.

Under-declaring assets for the Fair Deal scheme is punishable by a fine of €5,000 or three months in jail.

However, the department added that it will seek to make any under-declared amount a contract debt from the estate of nursing homes residents, or their family if they are seeking to game the system.

Irish Independent

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