Nursing home plan may alleviate the housing crisis

Elderly people are to be given more flexibility in how they fund their care needs, under radical plans being developed by the Government.

In an interview with the Irish Examiner, junior health minister, Jim Daly, who has responsibility for the Fair Deal nursing home scheme, said he wants older people to have a choice to do what suits them best.

He wants to roll out a fit-for-purpose home-help service, funded through a Fair Deal-type scheme, to allow a far greater number of elderly people to remain in their homes.

But for those who do use the Fair Deal scheme, Mr Daly wants them to be able to put their homes on the housing market, but not have to hand over the entire proceeds of the sale to cover their nursing home costs.

Long-term nursing home residents are currently reluctant to sell their family homes, because the cash would be subjected to Fair Deal contributions for the rest of their lives, and this might be a contributory factor in the country’s housing crisis.

But Mr Daly said that any change would not be mandatory, but one of choice.

“The whole basis of this is choice; giving the people involved choice about making the best decisions for their care,” he said.

Under the terms of the Fair Deal scheme, the family home, which remains in their name, is counted as assets. However, the value of the house is only subjected to contributions for three years.

Once converted into cash, along with all other assets, the house is then hit for a 7.5% Fair Deal contribution, while the nursing home resident is still alive.

Under Mr Daly’s new plan, money raised by the sale of homes could be ring-fenced, after contributions to Fair Deal have been paid for five years.

Speaking yesterday, at Glasnevin Cemetery, Health Minister Simon Harris insisted that the goal of the proposed changes was to give elderly people options.

Mr Harris said that alleviating the country’s housing crisis was a secondary consideration. “As minister for health, let me be clear: any change to the Fair Deal scheme will be done with one overriding objective and that is to help support older people and their families, to empower them, and give them more flexibility,” he said. “Jim Daly is reviewing many aspects of Fair Deal, including the impact on farmers and how it interacts with them, for small and medium business owners, and looking, also, at giving people the flexibility to rent their house, should they wish to do so,” Mr Harris added. “No change will be made with any objective other than to provide people with more flexibility.

“If, in doing so, it helps alleviate the major housing challenge, then that is to be welcome, but the Fair Deal scheme, and its overriding objective, is helping older people.

“All of these matters will be considered in the context of the budget,” Mr Harris said.


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