I propose to take Questions Nos. 157 and 163 together.
The Health (Nursing Homes) Act, 1990 provides for a new system of subvention for nursing home care. The drafting of regulations to implement the new system of subvention is at an advanced stage. It is hoped to begin discussions shortly with nursing home interests, including the Irish Private Nursing Homes Association on the subvention regulations. It is my intention to commence the Nursing Homes Act as soon as possible.
The question of capital allowances for private nursing homes is a matter for the Minister for Finance and I understand that the Irish Private Nursing Homes Association are in the course of making representations on the issue.
It is the policy of my Department to encourage a relationship of partnership and co-operation between health boards and the nursing home sector. The new nursing home legislation, when implemented, will encourage a closer working arrangement between the boards and the nursing homes.
While all health boards pay grants towards the cost of care of eligible patients in nursing homes, not all the grants which may be made to nursing homes under existing arrangements are paid by each health board. The new system of subvention under the Nursing Homes Act will encourage greater standardisation of payments to nursing homes in all health boards.
There are no statistics available on the number of people who leave nursing homes to return home because of inability to pay the fees, as this is a matter between the residents and the management of the nursing home. However, if dependent elderly people decide to return home, community services are in operation in each health board area to support such persons in the home. The carers allowance is one of the many supports and services which are designed to assist dependent people who live in the community.