The report of the Ombudsman into the nursing home subvention scheme identified a number of issues relating to the operation of the scheme. The findings of the report are being fully considered in my Department. In this regard, it is presumed the Deputy is referring to the issue raised by the Ombudsman of the interpretation by health boards of article 8.2 of the Nursing Home (Subvention) Regulations, 1993.
Article 8.2 allows health boards disregard a sum equivalent to one fifth of the old age non-contributory pension when assessing means and calculating the amount of subvention to be paid. An additional allocation of £4 million was made available in 1998 to six of the eight health boards, where the regulations were applied incorrectly, to meet the costs of arrears payments in respect of the full implementation of the Health (Nursing Homes) Act, 1990, and subsequent regulations. When the Department became aware of continuing delays in paying arrears it took the matter up with the relevant boards and is continuing to pursue the matter.
The current position is that where arrears were due to be paid, health boards have made retrospective payments in respect of persons currently resident in nursing homes. Some boards have also paid arrears in respect of former subvention recipients now deceased and former recipients who are no longer resident in nursing homes. I am advised that in excess of £1.2 million has been repaid to date. My colleague, the Minister for Health and Children, has instructed the relevant boards to take immediate steps to pay all outstanding arrears as soon as possible.