I propose to take Questions Nos. 579 and 592 together.
The over-65 population recorded in Census 2011 was 535,393, an increase of 14.4% from 2006. Compared to population growth of 8.2% in the State as a whole, this is one of the age groups which experienced greatest growth over the period. The funding available for services for older people is not increasing at the same rate as the population. The State has limited resources. However, the demands being made of these resources continue to increase. The increase to the asset contribution is necessary to support the sustainability of the Scheme. Notwithstanding that, it must be stressed that the Nursing Homes Support Scheme remains an extremely generous one. Even after these changes take effect, the State will continue to meet by far the greater part of the cost of care in the majority of cases, with nursing home residents making a much smaller contribution.
The Scheme contains several important safeguards which ensure that both the person in the nursing home and their spouse/partner, if applicable, are adequately provided for:
- Nobody will pay more than the actual cost of care.
- The first €36,000 for a person's assets, or €72,000 for a couple, is not taken into account during the financial assessment.
- The principal residence is only included in the financial assessment for the first three years of a person's time in care.
- Where an individual's assets include land and property in the State, the contribution based on such assets may be deferred and collected from their estate. This is the optional Nursing Home Loan element of the scheme.
- Individuals keep a personal allowance of 20% of their income, or 20% of the maximum rate of the State Pension (Non-Contributory), whichever is the greater.
- If there is a spouse/partner remaining at home, s/he will retain 50% of the couples income, or the maximum rate of the State Pension (Non-Contributory), whichever is the greater.
- Certain items of expenditure, called allowable deductions, can be taken into account during the financial assessment. These allowable deductions include health expenses.
- There is a financial review mechanism which takes account of the fluctuating value of assets and the fact that cash assets will naturally deplete over time as payments are made to the nursing home etc.