Press Release

Statement from Mr Seán Power TD, Minister of State, on the Health (Nursing Homes) (Amendment) Bill 2006

Mr Seán Power TD, Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children with special responsibility for Older People, today (12th October 2006) said that the Health (Nursing Homes) (Amendment) Bill 2006 “is designed simply to put the current subvention scheme on a sound legal footing. The provisions contained in the Bill in relation to the financial assessment of an applicant for subvention are not new and do not represent any change from the current situation, as provided for under the Nursing Homes (Subvention) Regulations 1993, as amended. The Bill is not putting in place a national system of eligibility for the first time. The 1993 Regulations have always been applicable on a national basis. What this Bill is doing is ensuring that the existing subvention scheme for private nursing home care is fully grounded in primary legislation.”

When carrying out a financial assessment for the purposes of subvention, the applicant’s home is not taken into account in certain circumstances (for example, where it is occupied by a spouse, a child under 21, a child in full-time education or a relative in receipt of certain social welfare payments). If none of these situations apply, 5% of the imputed value of the person’s principal private residence is taken into account as part of the financial assessment.

The Bill provides the HSE with discretion to refuse to pay a subvention if the value of the applicant’s assets exceeds a certain threshold or the applicant’s principal residence exceeds a certain threshold and their income is above a certain level. This does not represent any change from current practice. These thresholds were set out in the Nursing Homes (Subvention) Regulations 1993 and update in the Nursing Homes (Subvention)(Amendment) Regulations 2005. The thresholds, as set down in the 2005 Regulations and as provided for in this Bill are:

  • Asset threshold to be disregarded for the purposes of subvention assessment – €11,000
  • Asset threshold above which subvention may be refused – €36,000
  • Income threshold above which a subvention may be refused -€36,000
  • Principal residence value above which subvention may be refused – €500,000 within the Dublin area or €300,000 outside the Dublin area, provided the income of the applicant is over €9,000 per annum.

The €9,000 income threshold only applies in conjunction with a property valued over the above levels. It is incorrect to say that a person with an income of €9,000 would be refused subvention solely on the basis of this income. Minister Harney was the first Minister to raise the house value thresholds under the existing Scheme to reflect current market valuations. These value thresholds had not been raised since the Scheme was introduced in 1993.

This legislation is not being brought forward instead of the publication of the report of the Inter-Departmental Group on Long-Term Care. This group reported to Government, and Government agreed on a number of principles that are reflected in the new social partnership agreement “Towards 2016”. Such principles include appropriate and equitable levels of co-payment by care recipients based on a national standardised financial assessment and that the level of State support for residential care should be indifferent as to whether that care is in a public or private facility.

Advanced discussions are being held at inter-departmental and inter-ministerial level to help draw up proposals for a new policy on long term care, based on the principles endorsed by Government and the social partners. The aim will be to achieve an equitable, balanced scheme, both for residential and community care, and for both public and private provision. Although we cannot comment on the contents of the details of any new scheme, as this is still under discussion, we can confirm that people will not be expected to meet 80% of the cost of their care as a general principle.

Minister Mary Harney has already said that no one will be forced to sell their house under the new policy and the HSE will not implement existing rules in such a way that people would lose their houses.