Sunday 23 September 2018

Minister: Landmark deal on nursing home fees to ease burden on families

Elderly 'holding back on care they need' over financial fears

Minister for the Elderly Jim Daly
Minister for the Elderly Jim Daly
Niall O'Connor

Niall O'Connor

Elderly people have been holding back on paying for the type of care they need because of flaws in the 'Fair Deal' scheme, according to Older Persons Minister Jim Daly.

Mr Daly last night revealed that he had received formal approval from the Attorney General to introduce sweeping changes to 'Fair Deal' - the State's Nursing Home support scheme.

The Fine Gael minister told the Irish Independent that he hopes the legal clearance will bring an end to the practice of elderly people avoiding paying for nursing home cover due to fears it will financially cripple their loved ones.

The changes approved by the Government's legal adviser will see the introduction of a three-year cap applied to farms and businesses.

To date, the ceiling has applied solely to the family home, but did not do so to farm and business assets.

In practice, the changes will save farm families and business owners thousands of euro per year in their nursing home cover.

Mr Daly also said he hoped the new measures would ensure that elderly people no longer avoid entering a nursing home due to fears that it will devastate their families financially.

"Fair Deal in its current form has placed a huge burden on people, particularly farm families," the Cork South West TD said.

"Elderly people have certainly been holding back on the type of care they have been getting. They don't want to go into a home if it is going to drain their life's investment and what they would like to leave behind for their loved ones," he added.

It's understood Attorney General Seamus Woulfe has recommended that the deal only apply to those who keep their assets within the family, meaning individuals who lease out their land will be excluded.

This is consistent with separate legal advice obtained by the Department of Health.

Failure to do so would mean that the land is deemed an "investment asset" rather than a "productive asset".

Under the current scheme, families pay a 7.5pc annual contribution on their principal residence for a maximum of three years.

However, the cap does not apply to farmland or business premises - meaning the financial burden facing farmers and business owners is much greater.

As a result of the deal secured by Mr Daly, the same three-year cap will apply across the board.

Legislation will be drawn up for a Cabinet meeting next month.

Support

Mr Daly's plan has secured the support of the Irish Farmers' Association and other farming groups.

He said he intended to ensure the measures were legislated for in the autumn. It means families should begin to benefit from the changes in the new year.

The HSE is given around €1bn annually to provide nursing home care.

In recent years the waiting time for a nursing home place has been around four weeks.

It has been estimated that around €40m more should be allocated to the Fair Deal scheme next year to meet the rise in demand.

Most Fair Deal nursing home residents pay their contribution to the cost of their care upfront in their lifetime.

Others defer the cost until after their death, which can involve the sale of the family home in many cases.

These outstanding payments are collected by the Revenue Commissioners.

Up to the end of May, €55.8m had been paid since the scheme started in 2009. A further €4.4m was due.

Irish Independent

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