19 SEPTEMBER 2016
ICSA Rural Development chairman Seamus Sherlock has slammed the “Fair Deal” nursing home scheme as being “extremely unfair and unworkable” for the vast majority of farmers.
The contribution that must be met by an applicant is 80% of the applicant’s annual income, and 7.5% of the value of the applicant’s assets per annum, up to the cost of the nursing home care.
ICSA believes that the 7.5% assessment of assets on an annual basis is quite severe but that the key problem is that this is capped at 22.5% for principal residential assets but there is no cap for farmland. Hence, a farmer who took over a farm from his father could be exposed to an unlimited liability on the farm at the death of the parent. This could arise where a farmer suffering dementia requires 10 years care in a nursing home as it is not feasible to look after him at home.
The bill here could be up to 75% of the value of the farm or the total bill for 10 years in a nursing home. Roughly, a ten year stay in a nursing home could lead to a bill of €500,000. In practice, the first port of call will be to deduct 80% of the patient’s income but in most cases, this will be the state old age pension which will be well short of the total bill. The old age pension will contribute about €9,500 to be set against the annual bill, leaving over €40,000 per annum to be deducted from the value of the farm.
The problem is that there are very few farms generating enough income to build a fund to take care of nursing home costs. The likely scenario here is that the farm will have to be sold to pay the Fair Deal bill.
There are exceptions whereby there is a sudden illness or disability and the successor has been farming at that time but this is the exception rather than the rule.
On the other hand, even where the assets have been transferred, this will only work if five years have elapsed between transfer and the nursing home care requirement. ICSA believes that this imposes an impossible strain on farm families who want to see their relative getting the necessary care but where the Fair Deal Scheme sows the seeds of doom for the long term future of the farm.
It is clear that the Fair Deal Scheme should not have the effect of putting a farm out of business.
I know of a case where Trojan efforts are being made to keep a parent at home and cared for. The parent is suffering from extreme dementia. While the decision to keep the parent at home is complex, it is the case that the Fair Deal Scheme weighs heavily on the decision. This should not happen.
Of course, we understand that a scheme to cover nursing home costs is regarded as a financial imperative from the exchequer point of view and as a political imperative from a health care policy point of view. However, it is hard to understand why an elderly person suffering from an acute illness like cancer will have all care needs covered by the state but not where the illness is of a nature requiring long term palliative care.
It is clear that the Fair Deal Scheme should not have the effect of putting a farm out of business. ICSA believes that the three year cap(22.5%) should apply to farm assets and will continue to campaign for farmers on this issue.