Paying three times for a single asset is “unethical, unconstitutional and unfair," Independent TD, Denis Naughten, told a meeting of the Oireachtas health committee when it discussed what farm families wanted in the new Fair Deal Scheme.
Earlier, Niall Redmond principal officer at the Department of Health said the planned legislative changes were to ensure that family farms and family businesses would be “better safeguarded” for future generations.
The Nursing Homes Support Scheme, also known as Fair Deal, provides financial support for people in long-term nursing home care, with those using the scheme contributing up to 80% of their income and up to 7.5% of any assets held towards the cost of care.
The value of a person's home is only included in the financial assessment of the first three years of their time in care but, currently, this three-year-cap does not apply to assets such as farms and businesses.
During pre-legislative scrutiny of the Nursing Homes Support Scheme (Amendment) Bill, the president of the Irish Farmers Association, Joe Healy, said the proposed changes would mean that family farms leased to third parties were excluded from the three-year cap as they are classified as an investment asset rather than a productive asset.
Mr Naughten said that as well as taking into account the capital value of the land over the first three years, there would be the rental income from the land and any money lodged by the older person would be regarded as capital.
“So the same piece of land is going to be charged three times under the Nursing Homes Support Scheme. Now, can you explain to me how that is equitable, how that is constitutional and how that is right,” he asked.
The same calculation would be applied to private homes that are rented out.
Mr Redmond said people using Fair Deal made a contribution to the cost of their care based on their means and what was being suggested was a move away from that.
"It is a move backwards that could create significant difficulties for the scheme," he warned.
Mr Healy said the heads of the bill must be revised to guarantee that the three-year gap also applied to farms that were currently leased but where a family successor gave a “verified commitment” that they would continue to farm the asset for six years.