Government to consider landmark changes to the Fair Deal scheme in March

The Government is set to consider landmark changes to the Fair Deal scheme during the month of March.

The review of the scheme – which is officially known as the Nursing Homes Support Scheme (NHSS) – in 2015 and the current programme for Government both commit to “removing any discrimination against farms and small businesses” that currently exists in the NHSS, according to a spokesperson for the Department of Health.

As the scheme is underpinned with primary legislation, the Minister of State at the Department of Health with special responsibility for Mental Health and Older People, Jim Daly, requested legal advice from the Office of the Attorney General in 2017 surrounding potential changes to the scheme.

Following examination of this issue, Minister Daly – along with the Minister for Health, Simon Harris – decided, subject to Government approval, to amend the NHSS.

The principal change proposed is the extension of the three-year cap currently applied to principal private residences to farms and small businesses, where it is being handed down to a family successor.

Other ancillary and related changes to the scheme will also arise, the spokesperson added.

Continuing, the spokesperson said: “Details regarding the proposed changes to the scheme will be brought to Government for consideration in March.

“Should the changes be approved by Government the legislative process will begin – firstly with the drafting of appropriate primary legislation. Following this, legislation will be introduced in the Oireachtas and will follow the normal process.

“It is hoped that successful progress through the Oireachtas will be completed before the year end.

It is important to note however that, should the proposed change be passed by the Oireachtas, it is intended to also apply it to existing participants of the scheme and therefore it is important that no person seeking nursing home care under the Fair Deal scheme would postpone making an application.

“They will not be disadvantaged by making application now and their care needs should be the absolute priority,” the spokesperson concluded.