Thursday 22 August 2019

More than €9.3m in payments to Fair Deal are overdue

Option: Residents of nursing homes can opt to defer the Fair Deal payments until after their death. Stock picture
Option: Residents of nursing homes can opt to defer the Fair Deal payments until after their death. Stock picture
Eilish O'Regan

Eilish O'Regan

More than €9.3m is now overdue in payments to the Exchequer from the estates of deceased nursing home residents under the Fair Deal scheme, new figures reveal.

The payments are due for deceased residents who deferred most of the cost of their care until after their death.

The Revenue Commissioners confirmed the money was due more than a year ago, according to the rules of the Fair Deal scheme.

Delays in the payments, due to probate and other issues, led to €382,680 in interest being levied last year.

The Exchequer received €18m from the estates of deceased Fair Deal residents in 2017 and €21.9m last year as house prices improved.

The delays in recovering the payments come as the €1bn Fair Deal scheme is under pressure this year, with more than 23,000 availing of the subsidy for nursing home care.

Meanwhile, nursing homes have until the end of the year to ensure the contracts presented to residents or their representatives before taking up residence are clear, simply written and without any clauses which allow additional charges to be levied later without agreement.

Under the new legally binding guidelines from the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC), residents must be told which extra charges are mandatory or optional.

The move to clean up contracts will mean that private nursing homes will have to ensure they are understandable.

Commenting on the new guidelines Nursing Homes Ireland, which represents private nursing homes, said about 8,000 residents entered 580 nursing homes every year and under the Health Act 2007 they must agree to a contract.

"Contracts within every nursing home - HSE, private and voluntary - are required by regulation and are subject to independent oversight and scrutiny by the independent health regulator, the Health Information and Quality Authority.

"Nursing homes proactively engage with prospective residents and their families at enquiry stage in an open and transparent manner regarding their contract for care.

"Our members are committed to a process of engagement, openness and transparency to provide a thorough understanding of the contract and ensure their decision is informed.

"Such engagement supports both the nursing home and the resident in establishing and maintaining a good relationship. We engaged with the CCPC to inform development of the guidelines and will consider them with a view to briefing our members with regard to supporting residents during a difficult and often stressful time in transitioning to nursing home care."

Referring to the additional top-up fees charged by some private nursing homes, the organisation said they were for services which were not provided for in Fair Deal payments.

"Residents are supported by personalised care plans that are stipulated within their contracts to encompass their needs, preferences and interests," it said.

Irish Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News