Fair Deal Scheme payment cap ‘forthcoming’

Proposals that family farms will be capped at the same three-year contribution as domestic families under the Fair Deal Scheme are “vital”, John Comer, president of the Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association (ICMSA), has said.

Following “a robust meeting” with Jim Daly, Minister of State for Mental Health and Older People, Comer acknowledged the minister’s commitment to make changes to the scheme which he described as “a major problem” for farm families.

“The proposal that family farms will be subject to the same three-year cap contribution as domestic properties – 7.5% per annum to a maximum of 22.5% – is vital,” he said, adding that the commitment is subject to legal approval.

However, the ICMSA expects that progress will be forthcoming shortly.

The ICMSA has fought hard to make sure this cap was introduced, and great credit must go to Minister Daly who has shown real leadership on this issue.

“We will fully engage with the minister in the coming weeks to make sure that this commitment gets over any hurdles,” he said.

Comer also stressed that “if and when” legislation is brought to the Dail, the ICMSA will raise other issues, such as “the five-year ‘look back’ on assets”.

The proposed change in legislation is a major relief to many farm families who have relatives or dependents in nursing homes and currently have a lien (a form of security interest) on the family farm.

“As we stated at the meeting, family farms pass from generation to generation, without the assets ever being liquidised and the Fair Deal – as it currently stands – actually forces the incumbent generation to sell the family farm to fund their care.

“The ICMSA also pressed the minister for further clarity on certain aspect of the scheme such as the definition of ‘sudden illness’ – clarity here would enable further progress around the terms and condition and also the area of who might be eligible for exemptions,” Comer said.

The wider context of elderly care was discussed as many farm families are uncertain where help to care for dependents is concerned. The ICMSA was encouraged to see that a holistic, yet clear, approach is envisaged under the current minister, according to the organisation.

“The proposed change is one of the most critical pieces of legislation that will come before the Dail in the coming month. ICMSA is happy to acknowledge the efforts made to amend a wrong that is being done to farm families all over Ireland,” Comer concluded.