Seanad debates

Friday, 16 July 2021

Nursing Homes Support Scheme (Amendment) Bill 2021: Committee and Remaining Stages

 

9:30 am

Photo of Alice-Mary HigginsAlice-Mary Higgins (Independent)

I move amendment No. 1:

In page 47, line 37, to delete "prepared."." and substitute the following: "prepared.

(4) The Minister shall, in conducting this review, include a consideration of matters relating to financial abuse, including any measures which may be required in relation to the prevention of or safeguarding against such abuse.".".

As the Minister of State will be aware, I am supportive of the thrust and direction of what she is trying to do with this legislation. I will address my other amendments later, but their purpose is to try to highlight issues related to the situation that is being addressed by the Bill. Most of my other amendments relate to reports on important conversations we need to have. This amendment is a little different in that it is something I suggest will be included in the review mechanism, not as a stand-alone report but as part of the five-year review. The amendment raises questions regarding the Bill on an area that needs scrutiny. The other issues relate to topics that build on what the Minister of State is doing, but this relates to financial abuse.

In a situation where one is setting up new financial mechanisms, where there is the appointment or naming of successors, for example, and the transfer of assets in the case not simply of a home but of companies and farms, it involves businesses, income and how it might be allocated from those businesses and farms. In many cases, in this legislation we are dealing with vulnerable persons, who are particularly vulnerable to the point where they may be in need of long-term residential care. It is important in all those situations that we would have extra vigilance, scrutiny and attention on issues concerning financial abuse.

In two of my former lives before the Oireachtas, I worked with Older & Bolder, which is a network of older persons' organisations throughout the country and for the Older Women's Network as part of that. As I will come to later, I also worked with the National Women's Council. I became aware during my work with all those organisations of the prevalence of elder abuse, in particular financial abuse. Sometimes it is subtle, but there can be elements of coercion and the application of pressure or bullying. I accept there are standard measures in the Bill that are appropriate safeguards under which people must appoint their successor or a person who is their care representative, but it would be appropriate that at the point of the five-year review, regardless of whether the Minister of State can accept this amendment, that there would be a careful eye to examine those questions of how these powers and mechanisms have been operated and if complaints, concerns or issues of financial abuse have arisen.

The Minister of State will be aware of the Civil Engagement Group, which is my group, and that in the previous Seanad, Colette Kelleher championed this area. The Minister of State knows her well and worked closely with her on vulnerable people, including in the area of dementia and others. The former Senator, Colette Kelleher, championed the legislation on adult safeguarding, which we are pressing for again. My colleague, Senator Black, will focus on the area of adult safeguarding in the autumn.

I hope that this will not just be part of the five-year review, but that the Minister will be supportive of adult safeguarding legislation, which the Law Reform Commission and others have sought. That legislation may have the potential to almost reach back into this legislation and related legislation on the fair deal and other financial processes. It would be useful if that legislation was the way we would tackle the issues of safeguarding within this and other legislation.There are a few ways in which the Minister of State can support and engage with the amendment, and I hope she will be open to that. It is so important that we be vigilant to recognise, address and safeguard in every way we can against financial abuse.

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