Press Release

Department of Health and Children addresses certain issues raised following the publication of the Nursing Homes Support Scheme Bill 2008

The Department of Health and Children wishes to address questions raised following the publication of the Nursing Homes Support Scheme Bill 2008 published today.

1. Access to Care

The Bill will, for the first time, make the arrangements for financial support for people who need long term care comprehensive, clear and coherent. It will guarantee that nursing home care is affordable for those who need it. This is not something that can be guaranteed under the present arrangements.

The new scheme is also consistent with the principles agreed in Towards 2016 in respect of long-term care services for older people. In particular, it was agreed that there should be equitable levels of co-payment by care recipients based on a standardised financial assessment.

Finally, with regard to the principle of co-payment, it is notable that no EU state provides free long-term residential care to all.

2. Equal Treatment for All Needing Long Term Residential Care.

The scheme will not differentiate between people based on their age or medical condition. Anyone who is assessed as needing long-term nursing home care, regardless of their age or medical condition, will be eligible to apply for support under the scheme.

3. Consultation

Details of the scheme were announced in December 2006 in order to facilitate consultation with the social partners and other stakeholders. Since then, the Department has met with: •the National Federation of Pensioners’ Associations, •the Irish Farmers Association, •the Irish Senior Citizens Parliament, and •the Social Partners, which includes representatives from Age Action.

In addition, Minister Hoctor has met with representatives from Age Action on several occasions since her appointment as Minister for Older People.

The Department has also dealt with queries and representations from interest groups (including Age Action), public representatives and members of the public.

Following publication of the Bill today, a further meeting with the Social Partners has been scheduled for tomorrow. This will take place under the auspices of Towards 2016.

4. Investment in Community Care

Over the past three years, €400 million has been invested in community supports for older people.

In particular, investment of €110 million over 2006-2007 has provided for a total of 4,300 Home Care Packages. The Department is currently progressing an Evaluation of the Home Care Package Initiative. It is intended that this Evaluation will make an important contribution towards future policy and service development for home care services for older people. This is expected to be completed in early 2009.

All of these are in addition to significant investment in home help hours, meals on wheels, day care and respite care.

5. Setting Nursing Home Standards

The Minister is currently considering draft “National Quality Standards for Residential Care Settings” to ensure that older people in nursing homes receive quality care. She hopes to approve the standards and underpin them with regulations by the end of this year.

6. The Situation of Siblings

The Bill is consistent with existing legislation, for example in the arena of social welfare and taxation, in regard to its treatment of siblings. Under the Fair Deal, each sibling would be assessed individually based on his or her actual means.

Where siblings share a home that is in the sole ownership of the sibling needing care, that person may seek a deferral of contributions based on the home for the duration of his or her lifetime. This means that the person needing care will not have to find money from his or her home to meet care costs during his or her lifetime. It also means that he or she will not have to sell or mortgage his or her home to meet care costs. His or her sibling could, therefore, remain living in the house during this time. Thereafter, the sibling could still qualify for a further deferral if he or she satisfied the criteria set out in the legislation. The criteria are designed to protect relatives on modest incomes who do not have property of their own.

Finally, the deferral of contributions based on the principal residence and the 15% cap on contributions from the principal residence also allows people to plan ahead. Unlike the present situation where people sometimes have to sell or mortgage homes and use the full realised value to meet their care costs, under the new scheme people will be aware of the maximum level of deferred contributions payable and of when this debt will fall due.

7. Separate Valuations on Separate Properties

As the 15% cap is based on the value of the original principle private residence, it would not be legally or administratively possible to provide for this latter benefit where a person has sold the principal residence and purchased a new one, i.e. one would then be talking about two separate properties with two separate valuations.