There has been a bitter taste to the recent Fair Deal breakthrough on Tuesday, which saw long-awaited changes to the nursing home scheme approved by Cabinet.
While the legislation still has to clear both houses of the Oireachtas, the changes mean that a farm family or small business’ financial contributions to the care of their loved ones in nursing homes will be capped at three years, where a family successor commits to working the productive asset or land.
Where a family member has been in care for over the three-year period, the requirement to pay will cease immediately or where a family member is within the three-year period they will only have to pay the remaining years.
However, there will be no retrospective payments made in respect of family members who have been in care for over or within the three-year period.
This leaves an especially bitter taste for farm families who have been repeatedly promised and let down that changes would be introduced since 2015.
For many farmers, including 75-year-old Offaly beef farmer Joe Carroll who has paid €25,000 a year for his wife’s nursing home care over the last seven years, news of the changes has not come soon enough.
“I’ve heard that changes will be coming so often, I almost don’t believe it,” Joe told the Irish Farmers Journal. “I’d be hoping for a clawback of the fees I’ve been paying but I’d just like to see the changes come through first at this stage.”
Joe has a son hoping to take over the family farm, but previously told the Irish Farmers Journal that the cost of his wife’s care had drained the farm and affected the future viability of the 70ac farm.
The current Fair Deal nursing home scheme sees farm families and small business owners required to put aside 7.5% of the value of their land or asset annually to pay for the care of their loved one in a nursing home.
This 7.5% contribution is currently not time-limited and the annual 7.5% charge based on the value of a farm for a farmer in full-time care means the family farm would be lost to the next generation after 14 years. This is because it would drain the value of the farm to pay for the care of a family member in a nursing home.
Legislative changes mean that the 7.5% will be capped at three years.
Where someone has been in care over this time contributions will cease immediately.
Where someone is in the middle of an initial three-year period of care they will have to pay the remaining years. There will be no financial reimbursement for payments made.