Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Wednesday, 30 June 2021

Select Committee on Health

Nursing Homes Support Scheme (Amendment) Bill 2021: Committee Stage

Photo of Mary ButlerMary Butler (Waterford, Fianna Fail)
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In fairness, we all want the same thing. We all want to get people into empty houses. That is the most important thing. When we were working with the Department, it had two asks of us. One was that the cap would be included at three years on the sale of a house. That is done.

The second part is much more complex. I take on board that Deputy Shortall asked that we come forward within 12 months. We will do it in a much shorter timeframe. I am happy to meet the committee again to discuss this but it will not be in this particular legislation because we just do not have the time. This is going to Report Stage on either 13 or 14 July and I will be bringing it to the Seanad after the Dáil goes into recess. It is important that this Bill goes through now and that amendment regarding the sale of the houses and the cap at three years will be included.

I will make one final point on the social protection means test and assessment under the fair deal scheme. They have some similarities but they serve different purposes. It is not desirable for the system to work in the exact same way. I am just pointing out the specifics here. Some 37% of people who enter nursing homes are only in a nursing home for six months. The problem is that we do not have the data regarding how many houses are empty for six months or 12 months. We just do not have it. That is part of the problem and why it is so difficult to bring this forward.

As I said already, 70% of people already have capacity issues. They have dementia in nursing homes. We want to give them a voice and a choice. Some people will never rent out their home. Deputy O'Dea brought forward a proposal with regard to including approved housing bodies, AHB, and having a system in place where a person only rents out the house and can have access to it if he or she leaves the nursing home, which I know is unusual. We are trying to work through every single aspect we can, however.

I would like to hear from Deputy Shortall, if that is okay.