The Government has approved the General Scheme of a Bill intended to change the treatment of family farms and businesses under the Nursing Homes Support Scheme, also known as the Fair Deal according to Kildare South Fine Gael TD Martin Heydon.

“Progress on changes to this area of the Fair Deal scheme is welcome and has been worked on for some time by my colleagues Minister Simon Harris and Minister of State Jim Daly. I am aware from dealing with many families in Kildare that financial concerns around the cost of nursing home care and the depletion of farm and business assets can cause considerable additional stress when a family member is also ill and requires long term nursing home care.

A review of the Nursing Homes Support Scheme, published in 2015, committed to reviewing how productive assets are treated under the scheme. The Programme for a Partnership Government committed to remove discrimination against small business and family farms under the scheme. Last year Government approved a policy proposal recommend by the Ministers to change how such assets are treated under the Scheme. The Government has now approved a General Scheme of a Bill to give effect to that policy decision and has approved the drafting of the legislation in accordance with the General Scheme.

People using the scheme contribute up to 80% of their income and up to 7.5% of the value of any assets held towards their cost of care. The value of a person’s home is only included in the financial assessment for the first three years of their time in a care.
The changes confirmed this week are to extend this 3-year cap to farms and businesses where a family successor continues to operate the farm or business for six years. Early succession planning remains a key objective of this and other Government policy including agricultural policy.

Alongside this decision, it is important that farm and business families continue to engage at an early stage in retirement and succession planning. It is also important to note that, as the law currently stands and will continue to stand, farm and business assets (along with all other assets) are not considered under the financial assessment in the Scheme if they have been transferred to others, including the next generation, over 5 years before nursing home care is required, making this the most financially prudent approach.

The Department of Health will now engage in Pre-Legislative Scrutiny and will engage with the Office of the Attorney General in preparing the legislation for publication.