Long-awaited changes to the fair deal nursing home scheme have passed through both Houses of the Oireachtas and have been welcomed by farm organisations and TDs.

Minister of State for mental health and older people Mary Butler was keen to ensure that she followed through on her commitment to the changes.

Now, all the legislation needs is the official sign-off from President Michael D Higgins.

Fair Deal bill

"Progressing this bill, as quickly as possible, has been an absolute priority for me since I was appointed last July.

“This has been a hugely emotive issue for farm families and business owners in communities across Ireland and one that the programme for government sought to deliver on.

"I am delighted to have now made this critical step forward with the full passage of this historic piece of legislation,” the minister said.

The news was welcomed by IFA farm family chair Caroline Farrell, who said that the scheme as it had stood had impacted heavily on farm families, while IFA president Tim Cullinan said there were still challenges to the scheme, but that the IFA had worked hard to help secure them.

Continued momentum needed

Fine Gael senator Tim Lombard also welcomed the changes to the scheme.

“The legislation introduces a three-year cap on the financial contributions of family owned and operated farms or businesses, when calculating the cost for nursing home care.

"It’s a fundamental change to the current scheme and will apply where a family successor commits to working the farm or business,” Lombard said.

He concluded by adding that continued momentum was still needed to ensure that the legislation was enacted.