Dáil debates

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Nursing Homes Support Scheme Bill 2008: Second Stage (Resumed)


12:00 pm

Photo of Peter KellyPeter Kelly (Longford-Westmeath, Fianna Fail)

This Bill seeks to put first and above all else the best interests of each person needing care. We should not lose sight of this. Foremost in everybody's mind must be our duty and responsibility to care for elderly and vulnerable people who require nursing home care. We must remember that above all else, each person needing care must receive priority. It is the interests of these people we should be looking after.

I am pleased to speak on this Bill which provides the legislative base for the new nursing homes support scheme, a fair deal. Going into a nursing home or long term care facility can be a source of anxiety and upset for older people and their families. This legislation includes comprehensive, clear and coherent measures in regard to the provision of financial support for people who need long term care.

Under the current nursing home subvention scheme, many older people and their families suffer real financial hardship in meeting the cost of care, including having to sell or remortgage their homes. It has also put families under huge financial and emotional strain as they seek the funds to pay for an elderly person's care. Under the new fair deal, people will be asked to contribute to the cost of their care according to their means. This system is right and equitable. Furthermore, no one will be disadvantaged, whether in public or private nursing homes.

Under the new arrangements, people requiring residential care will be assessed in regard to their ability to contribute to care. People who require long-term residential care will contribute 80% of their assessable income, for example, their pensions, whether for public or private nursing home care. Where a person's assessable income is deemed insufficient to meet the cost of care, he or she may be required to contribute up to 5% of his or her assets.

The system allows for flexibility as payment can be deferred until after settlement of the person's estate. This system is equitable as no one will pay more than the cost of their care. Furthermore, people will have the freedom to choose from any approved private or public nursing home. A national campaign was held a few weeks ago to highlight elder abuse. Age Action Ireland informed us that this often goes unnoticed and that, to my surprise, it is often relatives who abuse elderly people. It appears the care of older people cannot be easily policed when they are living independently or with family members.

There is no excuse for poor standards of care in our nursing homes. While the HSE inspects private nursing homes on the basis of current standards, public homes are not inspected. The Health Act 2007 provides for the registration and inspection of all nursing homes, public, private and voluntary. Further inspections will be carried out by the Office of the Chief Inspector of Social Services which is part of the Health Information and Quality Authority, HIQA.

I am pleased to note that existing inspection and registration systems for residential services will be replaced by a strengthened and expanded scheme. We were all horrified a couple of years ago by the "Prime Time Investigates" programme which showed older people living in appalling conditions. This derogation of our duty can never be allowed to happen again.


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