RURAL POLITICIANS AND farmers have said that the planned reforms of the Fair Deal nursing home scheme need to be implemented to remove the “blatant discrimination” that currently exists.
The Irish Independent reported this morning that planned changes to the scheme may be delayed or stopped after the Attorney General stepped in to voice concern about the proposals.
The report states that the AG warned against a scheme that could favour farmers over other business owners.
The Fair Deal nursing home scheme was introduced six years ago and allows elderly people contribute towards their own care in a home using their assets.
Criticism of the scheme stems from the fact inheritances and family businesses such as farms are taken as means-tested assets – in theory making the passing down of a farm for example from one generation to the next more precarious.
Lobby groups such as the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) and the Irish Cattle and Sheep Farmers’ Association have called for a number of reforms including a reduction in the time the farm can be used as part-payment for the nursing home care.
Both groups want that time reduced from five years to three.
The review has dragged on for too long and farm families who are concerned about the cost of care for elderly parents would welcome some certainty.
Last year’s Programme for Government promised to address what it called “discrimination against small business and family farms” as part of the Fair Deal scheme.
The Rural Independent Group passed a motion in the Dáil in May attempting to speed up the reforms and one of its members Mattie McGrath TD said this morning that he was frustrated with the apparent fresh delay.
“We also called for the introduction of a reduced charge on the farm or business assets that removes the uncertainty for farm families and the self-employed and which protects the future viability of the farm or business asset for future generations,” the Tipperary deputy said.
The majority of the Dáil voted in support of those measures and that vote must be respected and honoured by the government and indeed the Attorney General.
“The Attorney General has a constitutional obligation to represent the public in the assertion or protection of their public rights, one of which is clearly the need to remove discriminatory measures that take no account of the unique nature of the family farm and its role in Irish society,” he added.
Asked this morning about the proposed reforms to the Fair Deal scheme, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar said he hoped it would be achieved but that legislation would be needed to achieve the government’s goals.
“They do have to be treated equally, a farm is a working asset, but so is a shop. If you own a shop, if you own a business or a shop, those are working assets too so our intention is to remove any discrimination against farmers and business owners and to treat them equally, ” Varadkar said.