I thank the Senator for raising this matter. I assure him that if I had to wait another 20 minutes for him I would have been quite happy to wait because I always appreciate any time somebody draws attention to this particular issue and gives me an opportunity to provide an update on it. I am in competition with many other Ministers who are trying to get their legislation through the House and their priorities addressed, and we are all fighting for limited resources.
I genuinely very much appreciate the Senator raising this matter and giving me the opportunity to give it some more focus, provide an update and keep it as a priority for both Houses, as the legislation will have to go through both Houses. I will appreciate the Senator's support at that stage when we bring the legislation through the Houses to ensure that we get it through in a timely manner.
To answer specifically the Senator's question as to where this is currently at, I said when I took up the job of Minister of State that this was a priority and that I wanted to deal with it. We had to go through a great deal of engagement with various bodies. I acknowledge the representative farm bodies in particular. They kept this on the agenda for many years and highlighted the challenges faced by real farm families in respect of this particular issue.
The Senator has already outlined to the House the terms. As he is aware, there is a 7.5% deduction of assets year on year, capped at three years where it applies to a family home. If it is a farm or business, however, there is no such three-year cap. The deduction further applies to 80% of one's income. In effect, when somebody decides to go to a nursing home, 7.5% of his or her farm or business can be deducted indefinitely. If someone ended up staying in a nursing home for ten years, potentially 75% of the assets would go back to the State. We all know about farm succession and the fact that other family members rely on these assets. As such, we are trying to stop that. One of the key issues and challenges is the fact that many people have lots of other changes they would like to see made to the fair deal scheme. However, I am adamant that if we stick to this one change and support making it happen in a timely and efficient manner, it will be a significant matter for these families. It would avoid too much tinkering with what is a comprehensive Act. The Nursing Homes Support Scheme Act 2009 is an extensive enactment and we have to be very careful when we start to tinker with it.
In July 2018, I sought and received the approval of Cabinet to proceed to draft legislation to apply the three-year cap to farms and businesses. As such, it is official Government policy. The heads of the Bill are being drafted by my officials. A number of legal issues and anomalies have arisen and a number of "what if" scenarios have been brought to our attention. We have to get the legislation right as we do not want it challenged in the courts. We do not want the legislation to be inequitable; we want it to be as fair as it can be. We are working on those challenges behind the scenes but I am hopeful the draft heads will be approved by the Government by the end of the year. As soon as the draft heads are approved and published, we can proceed to legislate in 2019. That is where I will be looking for as much help as I can get to prioritise the Bill on the legislative programme. Of course, many Ministers are trying to get their legislation onto the agenda.
The Senator asked about the home care scheme and I support him in that regard. I have always been a strong proponent of the provision of more options than just home and the nursing home. People need those options but traditionally that is all that has been available to older people. It has been a case of either staying at home or going to a nursing home whereas I have always believed we should have had many more options, including supported housing models. The Minister of State at the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, Deputy English, and I will host a conference in Dublin next week to look at initiatives and models of providing supported housing for elderly people which will allow them to continue to live behind their own front doors in a supported way and which may not necessitate them going to nursing homes at all.