Press Release

Government agrees repayment scheme for long stay charges

The Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, Mary Harney T.D., today (11 May 2005) announced the Government’s agreement of the key elements of a scheme for the repayment of long stay charges.

Outlining the details of the scheme, the Tánaiste said “ The Government will be introducing a fair, transparent and well-managed scheme for the repayment of these charges. The scheme will aim to make payments as quickly as possible with the minimum of fuss and bureaucracy. It will be easy to use and I am confident it will be seen by all involved as the best way to deal with the repayment of these charges.”

“ The decision to limit payments to the estates of those who died in the past six years reflects the reference in the Supreme Court judgement to the Statute of Limitations.

I have a responsibility to have regard to what the Supreme Court said about the Statute of Limitations in order to limit the scale of the total repayments which today’s taxpayers would otherwise have to fund. I am satisfied that the scheme strikes a fair balance in that regard.”

Outline of the Repayments Scheme

All those who were illegally charged and are alive and the estates of all those who were charged and died in the six years prior to 9 December 2004, will have the charges repaid in full. The scheme will not allow for repayments to the estates of those who died more than six years ago.

The repayments will include both the actual charge paid and an amount to take account of inflation (using the CPI) since the time the person involved was charged.

In the case of those who were charged and are still alive, the repayments will be exempt from tax and will not be taken into account in assessing means for health and social welfare benefits. The normal tax and means assessment arrangements will apply to those who benefit from repayments to estates.

An outside company with experience in handling mass claims will be engaged to design and manage the scheme within the parameters of the key principles approved by Government.

A national steering committee will be appointed by the Tánaiste to provide an independent input into the design of the scheme and to monitor the operation of the scheme in order to ensure that it is being implemented quickly and in the most equitable and effective way possible.

The scheme will be designed and managed with the aim of ensuring that those who are eligible for repayments receive them as soon as possible and with the minimum possible imposition in terms of bureaucracy. Priority will be given to those who are still alive. Many of those eligible for repayments have already been identified under the ex-gratia payments process.

The scheme will include a transparent and thorough appeals process.

The legislation will include appropriate safeguards to prevent exploitation of those who receive repayments and are not in a position to manage their own financial affairs.

The scheme will include a provision to allow those eligible for a repayment to waive their right to a repayment and have the money assigned to fund one-off service improvements in elderly, mental health and disability services.

It is estimated that about 20,000 people who are still alive and a further 40,000 to 50,000 estates will benefit. The scheme will cost approximately €1billion.

The national helpline set up by the Health Services Executive to allow people to register if they believe they are due a repayment will continue to operate but there is no need for anyone who has already registered using this facility to make contact with the HSE again to register for the scheme.