By Stephen Cadogan
Legislation to end the risk of farm or business assets being decimated by nursing home changes is official Government policy, and it will be backdated when it is passed into law, according to Jim Daly, Minister of State at the Department of Health with special responsibility for Mental Health and Older People.
As a result, there is no financial benefit to anyone in delaying a decision to go into a nursing home, he said.
Mr Daly said, “At whatever stage in 2019 the legislation is enacted by the Houses and signed by the President, we will apply it retrospectively to anyone who is already in a nursing home.
“People will have to pay for three years anyway.
“As such, a person debating about going into a nursing home or waiting for a change, should of course go in.
“I hope that any older person will make that decision as soon as care is necessitated, because he or she will, in any event, have to meet the 7.5% contribution for three years.
“We can presume with reasonable confidence that this legislation will be well wrapped up within that three years.
Responding in Seanad Eireann to Fianna Fail’s Senator Robbie Gallagher, Mr Daly explained that the Nursing Homes Support Scheme (known as “Fair Deal”) includes charges of 80% of income and a 7.5% deduction of assets per year, capped at three years where it applies to a family home, but not if the asset is a farm or business.
“In effect, when somebody decides to go to a nursing home, 7.5% of his or her farm or business can be deducted indefinitely.
“If someone ended up staying in a nursing home for ten years, potentially 75% of the assets would go back to the State.
“In July 2018, I sought and received the approval of Cabinet to proceed to draft legislation to apply the three-year cap to farms and businesses.
“ I expect to bring Heads of Bill to Government in the next session before this year end and that the changes will come into effect in 2019 subject to the legislative process.“
Mr Daly said the representative farm bodies in particular kept this on the agenda for many years, and highlighted the challenges faced by farm families in respect of this particular issue.