TD slams lack of timeframe for changes to Fair Deal scheme

The government is being criticised for a lack of a timeframe on reform of the Nursing Home Support Scheme, otherwise known as Fair Deal.

Laois-Offaly Independent TD Carol Nolan put down a parliamentary question this week asking the Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly when legislation amending and updating the Fair Deal scheme will be brought to the Dáil.

She was informed that “progress on the development of the bill has been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic” and the government’s focus has been entirely on “responding to the challenges presented by Covid-19”.

Fair Deal provides financial support to people who need long-term nursing home care. Under the scheme an individual can make a contribution towards the cost of their care and the Health Service Executive (HSE) pays the balance.

The scheme covers approved private nursing homes, voluntary nursing homes and public nursing homes. The financial assessment carried out as part of an application looks at income and assets (such as farms) in order to work out what an individual’s contribution to care will be.

Changes to legislation

The revised scheme is aimed at putting a three-year cap on productive farm assets making it more equitable for farmers and farm families.

Deputy Nolan said: “It is profoundly alarming that the minister could not even provide an estimated timeframe for when the urgently needed changes to the Fair Deal scheme will be brought before the House.

It is simply not acceptable to have a major piece of legislative reform cast aside in this manner – despite the need to focus on Covid-19.

“There have been numerous debates and endless commitments to advance this issue as a matter of equity for farmers and the self-employed and indeed providers; yet here we are years later and not a sign in sight of a date for the introduction of the amending legislation.

“Our reaction to Covid-19 is important but this should not mean that all other areas of important reform are left to wither and die on the vine,” concluded the deputy.