Fair Deal scheme changes will need ‘significant levels of cross-party support’

The cost-saving changes that look likely to be introduced in the Fair Deal Scheme will need “significant levels of cross-party support” to bring them into play as quickly as possible, according to Independent TD Mattie McGrath.

Members of the Rural Independent Group welcomed developments that suggest that significant cost-saving measures will be introduced as part of a revised Nursing Home Support Scheme – also known as the Fair Deal Scheme – in the near future.

Speaking on behalf of the group, Deputy McGrath said that the measures are a reflection of the “unanimous support that the Rural Independent Group received for its Private Members Motion on the issue in May of this year”.

Also Read: Fair deal or ‘lousy’ deal? Rural TDs push motion on Fair Deal Scheme

Commenting on the development, Deputy McGrath said: “As a group we are delighted that the recommendations of our motion look set to be implemented in the near future.

It is an important first step in recognising the unique challenges that face farming families in terms of trying to access nursing home support and maintain the viability and inter-generational nature of farming in this country.

“Our motion specifically called on the government to honour the commitment in the Programme for a Partnership Government to remove discrimination against small businesses and family farms.

“We also asked for the introduction of a cap on the charges that could be applied to the family farm after three years. That now appears to have been accepted at ministerial level.

My concern at this point is that we need to get these changes placed firmly on a statutory basis and that will probably require significant levels of cross-party support.

“However, given that we as group managed to secure unanimous support for our motion in May, I am confident that we can achieve a similar outcome in this scenario,” Deputy McGrath added.

3-year cap

The move by the Minister of State for Mental Health and Older People, Jim Daly, to introduce a three-year cap on contributions in the Fair Deal scheme – based on the value of the farming or business enterprise – has also been welcomed by the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association’s (ICSA’s) general secretary Eddie Punch.

He said: “The ICSA has always believed that a three-year cap was the most equitable solution for farming families and small businesses. This will bring the treatment of family farms in line with the treatment of family homes.

It means that no matter how many years nursing home care is required, the final bill will be limited to the first three years of care being levied against the asset – or in practice, a maximum of 7.5% per year capped at 22.5%.

This means that the risk of a productive farm – which the next generation may already be farming – having to be sold to meet the bill has been greatly reduced, which is something the ICSA welcomes, Punch concluded.