The Nursing Homes Support Scheme, commonly referred to as the Fair Deal Scheme, has been in operation for over 10 years and there is broad agreement that the Scheme operates well and continues to provide appropriate financial assistance where it is required.
However, it is recognised that the Act, in its current form, does not place caps on the financial assessment of family owned and operated farms or businesses when calculating the means to pay for nursing home care. This places a potentially onerous burden on family successors and could challenge the future viability of these productive assets.
Therefore, the Department of Health has proposed a policy change to the Scheme, to cap contributions based on farm and business assets at three years where a family successor commits to working the productive asset. The stated policy objective of the legislation is to introduce additional safeguards in the Scheme to further protect the viability and sustainability of family 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.
This change was approved by Government and underwent pre-legislative scrutiny in the last Dáil. 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 requested a waiver to conduct pre-legislative scrutiny from the Business Committee, given this was already undertaken in the previous Dáil, and this waiver was granted on 4th February 2021. 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 the Oireachtas at the earliest possible opportunity. It is on the priority list for publication in the Spring legislative session. The Bill will be enacted upon completion of all stages in the Oireachtas and signed into law by the President.