Nursing Homes Support Scheme: Motion (Resumed) [Private Members]

The following motion was moved by Deputy Michael Harty on Wednesday, 31 May 2017:
That Dáil Éireann:
recognises:
— 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.
Debate resumed on amendment No. 1:
To delete all words after "Dáil Éireann" and substitute the following:
"recognises that:
— the Nursing Homes Support Scheme (NHSS) provides financial support towards the cost of long-term residential care services in nursing homes. It is an important scheme, ensuring that long-term nursing home care is accessible to everyone assessed as needing it, regardless of their age;
— with a budget of €940 million in 2017, the NHSS will support just over 23,600 people by the end of the year;
— the time applicants spend on the placement list for funding has not exceeded four weeks since early 2015 and we must ensure that any changes to the NHSS do not impact on this;
— under the NHSS, an applicant 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 annum. The State then pays the balance of the cost of care. Notably, the first €36,000 of an individual’s assets, or €72,000 in the case of a couple, is not counted at all in the financial assessment;
— the NHSS has a number of important safeguards built into it. Among these safeguards is the provision that nobody will pay more than the actual cost of care. Furthermore, where an applicant’s assets include land and property held in the State, the contribution based on such assets may be deferred and collected from their estate. This is the optional loan element of the NHSS, the purpose of which is to ensure that a person does not have to sell their home during their lifetime to pay for long-term nursing home care. A nursing home resident can apply for this deferral at any stage; and
— an applicant’s principal private residence will only be included in the financial assessment for the first three years of their time in care. This is known as the ‘three year cap’;
further recognises that:
— when the NHSS commenced in 2009, a commitment was made that the scheme would be reviewed. The report of the review was published in July 2015. Arising out of that review, a number of recommendations called for more detailed consideration of key issues, including the treatment of business and farm assets for the purposes of the financial assessment element of the NHSS;
— the Programme for a Partnership Government has also committed to reviewing the NHSS to remove any discrimination against small businesses and family farms;
— an interdepartmental/agency working group has been established to oversee the implementation of many of the recommendations contained in the review of the NHSS;
— considerable policy work has been taking place in the Department of Health in relation to examining potential solutions to the issues raised. Proposals for changes to the NHSS are being developed, with the specific intention of addressing and alleviating the concerns of the farming community when it comes to the uncertainty that many farming and business families feel in relation to the annual contribution to the NHSS and the potential impact of this on the sustainability of the farm or business;
— the NHSS is underpinned by primary legislation, and as such any changes made to the scheme will require amendment to this legislation. The issues currently being examined are legally complex, and all aspects of the NHSS need to be taken into consideration. The equitable treatment of people under the NHSS must be borne in mind and we must be cognisant of the constitutionality of any proposed changes in terms of equality of treatment;
— it is essential that any amendments made to the NHSS do not in any way negatively impact on its future financial sustainability. The NHSS is a vital piece of the wider healthcare system, and we must be cognisant of the fact that any negative impact on the scheme would have wider detrimental implications for the health service;
— the important position and contribution of the farming community in Irish society is recognised and valued. The importance of maintaining the farm as a productive asset to be passed down within the family unit is acknowledged;
— the important position and contribution of the business community, particularly small family-run businesses, in Irish society is recognised and valued. The importance of maintaining a business as a productive asset to be passed down within the family unit is also acknowledged;
— the concerns that farming and business families have in relation to the NHSS, particularly regarding the uncertainty of future liabilities based on the farm or business value in cases of family members working the farm or business is acknowledged;
— the NHSS already contains provisions in relation to the treatment of income generating assets such as farms; and
— in particular, the three year cap applies to a person’s farm or relevant business under certain circumstances as follows:
— the person has suffered a sudden illness or disability which causes them to need long-term nursing home care;
— the person or their partner was actively engaged in the daily management of the farm up until the time of the sudden illness or disability; and
— a family successor certifies that he or she will continue the management of the farm; and
calls on the Government to:
— bring forward the proposed changes in relation to this issue in the context of Budget 2018;
— honour the commitment in the Programme for a Partnership Government to remove discrimination against small businesses and family farms; and
— publish the necessary primary legislation required to bring effect to these proposed changes to the NHSS without undue delay following the completion of the examination of this issue and decisions in the context of Budget 2018."
- (Minister of State at the Department of Health, Deputy Marcella Corcoran Kennedy)

I must now deal with a postponed division relating to the motion regarding the nursing homes support scheme. On Wednesday, 31 May 2017, on the question that the amendment to the motion be agreed to, a division was claimed and in accordance with Standing Order 70(2), that division must be taken now.

Amendment put:
The Dáil divided: Tá, 48; Níl, 50; Staon, 38.

  • Bailey, Maria.
  • Barrett, Seán.
  • Brophy, Colm.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Peter.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.
  • Coveney, Simon.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • D'Arcy, Michael.
  • Daly, Jim.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Deering, Pat.
  • Doherty, Regina.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Doyle, Andrew.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Farrell, Alan.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Fitzpatrick, Peter.
  • Griffin, Brendan.
  • Harris, Simon.
  • Heydon, Martin.
  • Humphreys, Heather.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Kyne, Seán.
  • McEntee, Helen.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • McLoughlin, Tony.
  • Madigan, Josepha.
  • Mitchell O'Connor, Mary.
  • Moran, Kevin Boxer.
  • Murphy, Dara.
  • Murphy, Eoghan.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Naughton, Hildegarde.
  • Neville, Tom.
  • Noonan, Michael.
  • O'Connell, Kate.
  • O'Donovan, Patrick.
  • O'Dowd, Fergus.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Ross, Shane.
  • Varadkar, Leo.
  • Zappone, Katherine.

Níl

  • Adams, Gerry.
  • Barry, Mick.
  • Boyd Barrett, Richard.
  • Brady, John.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Buckley, Pat.
  • Burton, Joan.
  • Collins, Joan.
  • Collins, Michael.
  • Connolly, Catherine.
  • Coppinger, Ruth.
  • Crowe, Seán.
  • Cullinane, David.
  • Daly, Clare.
  • Doherty, Pearse.
  • Ellis, Dessie.
  • Fitzmaurice, Michael.
  • Funchion, Kathleen.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Harty, Michael.
  • Healy-Rae, Danny.
  • Healy-Rae, Michael.
  • Healy, Seamus.
  • Kelly, Alan.
  • Kenny, Gino.
  • Kenny, Martin.
  • Martin, Catherine.
  • McDonald, Mary Lou.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • Mitchell, Denise.
  • Munster, Imelda.
  • Murphy, Catherine.
  • Ó Broin, Eoin.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Laoghaire, Donnchadh.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O'Reilly, Louise.
  • O'Sullivan, Jan.
  • O'Sullivan, Maureen.
  • Penrose, Willie.
  • Pringle, Thomas.
  • Quinlivan, Maurice.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • Ryan, Eamon.
  • Sherlock, Sean.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Smith, Bríd.
  • Stanley, Brian.
  • Tóibín, Peadar.
  • Wallace, Mick.

Staon

  • Aylward, Bobby.
  • Brassil, John.
  • Breathnach, Declan.
  • Browne, James.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Cahill, Jackie.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Casey, Pat.
  • Cassells, Shane.
  • Chambers, Jack.
  • Chambers, Lisa.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Curran, John.
  • Donnelly, Stephen S.
  • Dooley, Timmy.
  • Fleming, Sean.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Lahart, John.
  • Lawless, James.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • McConalogue, Charlie.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McGuinness, John.
  • Moynihan, Aindrias.
  • Murphy O'Mahony, Margaret.
  • Murphy, Eugene.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • O'Brien, Darragh.
  • O'Callaghan, Jim.
  • O'Dea, Willie.
  • O'Loughlin, Fiona.
  • O'Rourke, Frank.
  • Rabbitte, Anne.
  • Scanlon, Eamon.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Smyth, Niamh.
  • Troy, Robert.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Regina Doherty and Tony McLoughlin; Níl, Deputies Michael Harty and Mattie McGrath.
Amendment declared lost.
Motion agreed to.