Overhaul of Fair Deal to be backdated three years
New boost for farmers and business owners as nursing home costs slashed under new scheme
Landmark changes to the Fair Deal scheme will be backdated three years for nursing home residents who pass on their farms and businesses to relatives, the Sunday Independent can reveal.
Farmers and business owners who have been paying significant Fair Deal contributions for the past three years will now have their assets excluded from future payments.
Similarly, those who have been paying the top rate for the past two years will only have one more year of HSE contributions to pay under the new regime.
The move will save nursing home residents, who pass on their farm or business to family members, thousand of euro in Fair Deal payments.
Minister for Older People Jim Daly is expected to get Cabinet approval for the new scheme in the coming weeks.
Currently, around 700 people have listed farming assets under the Fair Deal scheme and hundreds of others are believed to be former business owners.
Those who will benefit most from the changes are residents who have entered the nursing home system in the last three years or those who are just about to secure a place.
Nursing home residents who have been in care for more than three years will not be able to recoup contributions they have made beyond that period.
The new Fair Deal scheme will also see a 'claw-back' clause introduced, which will mean the 7.5pc top contribution rate will be applied to farm and business assets if they are sold on or leased within six years of a person entering a nursing home.
The clause is aimed at ensuring succession farmers and business owners are not taking advantage of the new scheme. The amendments to Fair Deal have been called for by the Irish Farmers' Association and other groups who say children who take on family businesses are being unfairly penalised when their parents enter nursing home care.
Mr Daly has argued that older people are putting off entering nursing homes because of the punitive affect it will have on their family's finances.
Until now, the three-year cap on contribution costs only applied to a nursing home resident's family home.
The overhaul of the State's nursing home scheme will see a three-year cap introduced on farm and business assets which were previously subjected to a continuous 7.5pc contribution based on their value.
The State spends almost €1bn annually providing nursing home care to older people though the Fair Deal scheme.
The cost of financing the scheme is expected to increase substantially in the coming years due to the country's ageing population.
Changes to the scheme, which will be introduced next year, will also see the HSE bear the cost of the reduced nursing home contributions for farmers and business owners.
A spokesman for Mr Daly said: "The minister's primary concern is that no one would postpone applying to the scheme to be cared for in a nursing home and that is why he is seeking government approval to have the changes apply to both new and existing members of the Nursing Homes Support Scheme."