Despite the fact that Michael Fitzmaurice TD welcomes the approval of the ’Fair Deal’ Scheme by the Cabinet, he is eager to get clarification on some of the clauses within the proposal.
The approval for the proposal came from the Minister of Health, Simon Harris, as well as the Department’s Minister of State, Jim Daly.
Contributions of 80% of their income are being made by people who are availing of the scheme, along with 7.5% of the value of any assets held toward their cost of care.
As part of the ‘Fair Deal’, the 7.5% only applies to a person’s home for their first three years of their care. This three-year cap did not apply to farms or businesses until now.
If the new proposal goes ahead, the cap extension will apply where a family successor continues to farm the land – or operate the business – for a period of six years.
Speaking about the reform, Mr Fitzmaurice said, “These proposed changes are a welcome boost to the many farm families who are struggling to cover nursing home costs for their loved ones.”
“In some instances, families have had to consider selling off land to cover the costs – which could make the farm unviable for future generations,” he added.
Level playing field
He also made it clear that it is imperative to farms and businesses that the cap to farms and business be established as quickly as possible.
Mr Fitzmaurice felt that Maura Canning from Co. Galway should be acknowledged for all the work and lobbying that she has undertaken.
Speaking about what this would mean for farming families, he said, “These changes will level the playing field between those who own a home in Dublin, and those running a small family farm or business in rural Ireland.”
The requirement for a family farm to be eligible for the cap, the person or partner requiring care services or their family successor must have been “regularly and consistently applied to the farming of the farm or carrying on of the relevant business for at least three years of the five years prior to the person receiving care services”.
Along with this, it is required that the person receiving care must nominate a family successor to take over the farm or business.
After that, the successor must, “on a consistent and regular basis apply a substantial part of his or her working day to the farming of the farm or carrying on of the relevant business for a period of not less from the day that they are nominated,”.
The Independent TD has asked for clarification on how the department intends to determine whether the applicants were regularly and consistently applied to the farming for three or five previous years.
He would also like clarification on what determines a ‘substantial part’ of the working day.
“Many farms in rural Ireland are not large enough to fully support a family, so an off-farm income is often required. I would hate to think that small family farms wouldn’t be eligible to benefit from the changes revealed today, due to the successor requiring a job away from the farm” he said.
“I look forward to hearing more from the Minister in relation to how they will define active farming, but it is worth underlining the many benefits,” concluded Mr Fitzmaurice.