IFA president addresses Oireachtas committee on ‘fair deal’

The Fair Deal Scheme was the topic for discussion today, Wednesday, November 13, at the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health, with Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) president Joe Healy in attendance to argue that “huge uncertainty and anxiety have been created” for farm families.

Healy was at the committee meeting to discuss “what farm families want in the new Fair Deal Scheme”.

“The IFA supports the Nursing Home Support Scheme and recognises the important role of the scheme in providing financial support and security for people going into long-term nursing home care, as well as their families,” Healy told the committee members.

However, it is nearly five years since the Government gave a commitment to introduce changes to remove discrimination against family farms and small businesses under the scheme.

“Huge uncertainty and anxiety have been created for family farms, with fear that the viability of the farm will be undermined or lost while attempting to meet the costs of care,” the IFA president added.

He continued: “This led to the introduction of a three-year cap on farm business assets in circumstances of sudden illness. While we acknowledge the work done by [Minister of State for Older People] Jim Daly to publish these draft heads of bill with the aim of removing this discrimination, issues still remain.”

Following Dáil approval in June, a three-year time limit was extended to farms, so that the contribution from scheme applicants for nursing home care – amounting to 7.5% of the value of assets – would only be applied for the first three years of care. Previously, this three-year limit did not apply for farms.

However, according to Healy, these changes did not solve all the problems.

“Under the proposed changes, family farms that are leased to third parties are excluded from the three-year cap, as they are classified as an investment asset rather than a productive asset,” he pointed out.

“This is inconsistent with other Government policies, that actively incentivised and encouraged farmers to enter into long-term leases with third parties. Another condition that has not been addressed is the clawback on farm assets that have been transferred for less than five years,” the IFA president added.

Healy concluded his remarks by arguing that: “The heads of bill must be revised to guarantee that the three-year cap also applies to farms that are currently leased, as long as the farm is farmed on a commercial basis by one of the following: the farmer; partner; spouse; family successor; or leasee.”