Wednesday, 28 April 2021

Questions (879)

Thomas Pringle

Question:

879. Deputy Thomas Pringle asked the Minister for Health the status of the upcoming legislation on the fair deal scheme; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21250/21]

View answer

Written answers (Question to Health)

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, the Programme for Government commits to introducing this amendment to the Nursing Home Support Scheme and work on the legislation has continued to progress. Officials in my Department and draftspeople in the Office of the Attorney General have been working intensively on drafting this legislation for several months, and I am pleased to say that a finalised draft of the Bill has now been signed by the Attorney General. I am sure you will appreciate that several steps must be completed before the Bill is laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas, including its approval by Government. I expect to bring the Bill to Cabinet for approval in the next couple of weeks. It will be published very shortly thereafter and presented to both Houses of the Oireachtas at the earliest possible opportunity.