Tax relief for elderly care will have ‘little effect’

New Government tax relief measures to help families care for elderly relatives at home will do little to cut waiting lists, it has been claimed.

Nursing Homes Ireland issued the criticism after Health Minister Leo Varadkar and Finance Minister Michael Noonan announced plans to beef up supports for families.

Under a joint move revealed last night, the departments of Health and Finance have agreed to boost existing tax relief for people caring for their elderly relatives at home, from €50,000 to €75,000 a year. The increase means families who can afford to spend this amount of money will be in a better position to look after “incapacitated” spouses, parents and others at home and without resorting to health service facilities.

Mr Varadkar said last night the policy is “sensible” as it will help families in need and reduce 16-week nursing home waiting lists. He said the measure will also relieve pressure on hospitals, where up to 800 elderly people are regularly unable to leave due to a lack of step-down facilities — causing significant backlogs to the wider system.

Home and Community Care Ireland said the change will make complex care “more affordable”. However, while welcoming any policy to tackle the issue Nursing Homes Ireland chief executive, Tadhg Daly, said it will do little to address the current problems.

Mr Daly said of the 2,000-plus people facing nursing home placement delays of up to 16 weeks, all have been assessed by the HSE to need nursing home care — meaning they are not in a position to benefit from the tax changes.

He said among the wider population, most families facing the tough decision of whether to care for a relative at home or admit them to a facility are not in a position to pay for home help care worth €50,000 to €75,000, meaning the “bed-blocker” difficulties in hospitals are likely to continue.

“Caring for an ageing population is multifaceted so any move to address it is welcome. But this tax relief will apply only to a very small number of people. We’ve said for quite some time that the issue is that the Fair Deal scheme is not properly funded,” he said.

Meanwhile, the long-awaited Government discretionary medical card report will be published next week.

The document, commissioned from a 23-strong team of independent experts after a year of controversy resulted in May’s coalition local elections collapse, was signed off on by cabinet yesterday.


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