Minister of State Mary Butler has confirmed that the new Nursing Home Support Scheme, also known as the Fair Deal, has been finalised and will be brought to the cabinet in the next two weeks.

Speaking in the Seanad today (Monday, April 19), Minister Butler said that there was “quite a bit of technical work” to be done on the bill.

“It is quite a technical bill, although people might think it is not,” the deputy said.

“There are 26 sections in it. The Attorney General went back to the drafters in the Department of Health seeking 136 clarifications, so there is quite a bit of work on the question of a successor, who is working a farm and all the details that have to be put in place.

“That is also the case with small businesses. In some cases there are operations that function with small businesses and farmers. There was quite a bit of technical work.”

Following approval by the government, the bill will be brought to the cabinet “in the next two weeks”. The bill has been circulated to the departments and will be with them for 10 working days, having been circulated last Thursday.

Fair Deal ‘is not fair to them’

Senators Fiona O’Loughlin and Lisa Chambers raised the topic today, with senator Chambers saying she knows from speaking to farming families “that the scheme is not fair to them” as it currently stands.

“The scheme’s true impact is that older people are not going into nursing home care when they need to. This is not because of greed or a desire to hold on,” the senator said.

“Rather, it is because they fear they will lose everything that they have worked to build and put together over their lives – the family farms and small businesses that are their legacies – and that they want to hand on to the next generation.”  

Senator O’Loughlin added: “The Fair Deal scheme is a good scheme when it works but for farm families and the families of small business owners, the system is anything but fair.   

“For most people, the 7.5% per annum levy is limited to the first three years of the nursing home care but farmers and business owners face indefinite contributions on their assets, which in some cases threatens the very viability of their farm or business.

“This clearly discriminates against the agricultural community and causes terrible hardship for young farmers who hope to inherit farmland. It renders non-viable many farm holdings in rural Ireland.”