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Dáil Éireann - Private Members Business (Rural Independent Group)
Wednesday 31 May 2017

“That Dáil Éireann:
— the importance of the Nursing Homes Support Scheme, which provides essential financial support for those in need of long-term nursing home care;
— that the participants of the Nursing Homes Support Scheme contribute to the cost of their care according to their income and assets, and that this contribution can be considerable where an individual contributes up to 80 per cent of their assessable income, and a maximum of 7.5 per cent of the value of any assets per year towards the cost of care;

— the uncertainty created for farm families and family businesses by the potentially uncapped liability in the financial assessment of farm and business assets, particularly, when the farm or business has not been transferred or when the asset has been transferred but for less than five years;

— that the 7.5 per cent per annum contribution applies for the duration of an individuals stay in the nursing home, save where a three year cap applies to the applicants principal residence;

— that in certain circumstances a three year cap can be applied to the assessment of non-residential assets in the case of sudden illness or disability, but that there is considerable vagueness in the definition of ‘sudden illness or disability’, which provides for such a cap; and

— the difficulties and unfairness associated with assessing the notional income from a farm at a rate of 7.5 per cent of the current market value of that farm;
further recognises:

— that family farms make a vital contribution to growth and employment in rural areas, forming the backbone of our rural economy, where it is estimated that farm families spend €8 billion per year in the Irish economy, most of which is spent locally, supporting local jobs and enterprises;

— that family farms are passed down from generation to generation and that it is essential that Government policy support and encourage the lifetime transfer of the farm;

— the adverse impact of the financial assessment on the self-employed and farm families which is affecting the viability of the farm and business for the next generation;

— that there are approximately 140,000 family farms in Ireland with an average size of 32.7 hectares per holding;

— that the Teagasc National Farm Survey shows that the average family farm income was €26,300 in 2015 and that farm family income varies considerably, with 70 per cent of farms earning an income of less than €25,000;

— that the age of the average Irish farmer is 57 years with 25 per cent of Irish farmers aged older than 64 years;

— that the assets farmers and other self-employed family businesses have are productive assets, and are required to generate income and should not be considered as a measure of additional ability to pay;

— that the current financial assessment is not progressive, fundamentally unfair and has a disproportionate impact on low income farm families, where any further dilution of the farm assets could make the farm non-viable for future generations;

— that under the current system farm families fear the viability of their family farm will be undermined or lost in meeting the cost of long-term care; and

— the commitment given in the Programme for a Partnership Government to review the Nursing Homes Support Scheme to remove any discrimination against small businesses and family farms; and

calls on the Government to:

— immediately publish the recommendations of the Interdepartmental Working Group on the Fair Deal Scheme or in the event that this group have not finalised their work to ensure that their work is finalised within three months from this date;

— honour the commitment in the Programme for a Partnership Government to remove discrimination against small businesses and family farms;

— introduce a reduced charge on the farm/business assets that removes the uncertainty for farm families and the self-employed which protects the future viability of the farm/business asset for future generations;

— reduce the time an asset needs to be transferred prior to entering a nursing home from five to three years;

— provide immediate clarification on the definition of ‘sudden illness or disability’, which provides for a three year cap to be applied to non-residential assets, and to provide a broadened interpretation of ‘sudden illness or disability’ to include those who have been cared for at home for a period of time prior to seeking nursing home care;

— publish and bring forward the necessary primary legislation required to bring effect to these proposed changes to the Nursing Homes Support Scheme without delay following the completion of the review of this issue; and

— ensure that sufficient funding is allocated in Budget 2018 to allow for these changes to become operational in 2018.” Mattie McGrath, Michael Collins, Noel Grealish, Michael Harty, Danny Healy-Rae, Michael J. Healy-Rae, Michael Lowry.