Under the Nursing Homes Support Scheme, participants contribute to the cost of their care according to their means, while the State pays the balance of the cost. The Nursing Homes Support Scheme, in its current form, does not place caps on the financial assessment of family farms or family businesses when calculating the means to pay for nursing home care, except in the case of sudden illness or disability.
The Department of Health has proposed a policy change to the Nursing Homes Support Scheme to cap contributions based on farm and business assets at 3 years where a family successor commits to working the productive asset. This change has been approved by Government and undergone pre-legislative scrutiny in the last Dáil. The stated policy objective of the general scheme of the Bill is to introduce further safeguards in the Scheme to further protect the viability and sustainability of family owned and operated farms and businesses that will be passed down to the next generation of the family to continue to work them as productive assets to provide for their livelihood.
Progress on the development of the Bill was negatively impacted by the dissolution of the last Dáil and by the COVID-19 pandemic. The response to the pandemic has been and continues to be a national and public health priority. However, work on this legislation has continued to progress. I have exchanged letters with the Business Committee requesting a waiver to conduct pre-legislative scrutiny, given this was already undertaken in the previous Dáil. I have met with the Attorney General to discuss this legislation, and there has been an ongoing and active engagement between the Department of Health and the Office of the Attorney General on the development of the legislation, which will be brought to the Houses of Oireachtas at the earliest possible opportunity.