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. 5:

In page 59, between lines 34 and 35, to insert the following:

“Report

33. The Minister shall, within 12 months of the passing of this Act, lay a report before both Houses of the Oireachtas outlining any provisions, procedures or measures implemented in respect of pay related social insurance contributions made for spouses on farms where a farm is being assessed for financial contribution to the Nursing Homes Support Scheme, which report may include recommendations regarding further potential provisions, procedures or measures.”.

I am surprised amendments Nos. 5 and 6 were not included as part of an earlier grouping as they are similar to earlier amendments. I am engaging in the same area, specifically on pay related social contributions made for spouses on farms. Perhaps that is the issue, namely, whether there is a category and an allowance for PRSI contributions to be deducted. Perhaps it simply needs to be extended to ensure the interpretation of it will extend to relevant family members in terms of spouses or family members who qualify under that EU directive. There might be scope to provide that. Currently, the legislation is very much framed as if those individuals are responsible for making those contributions when, effectively, the making of those contributions has to come from the income of the farming business. Perhaps it is a matter of teasing out how that is interpreted. There may be scope to address the problem in that regard.

With respect to social protection entitlements of family members of the person concerned, a related issue in terms of qualified adults may be tackled in that respect. Sometimes they are independent payments and sometimes they are attached payments. I have not tabled these amendments simply to have a conversation on this issue. I tabled them because I worked with older people, older women in particular, for three or four years and I saw how they were impacted by inequalities in our pensions system. I subsequently worked with the National Women's Council of Ireland and saw how that gets deeply embedded. This is a chance to address that. When we talk about the family as a unit, family members are not all of the same mind working seamlessly together. As I said, much of our literature would not be what it is if that were the case. There are power dynamics and imbalances within families. There is an entire field of sociology related to household bargaining and how that works. As legislators, we should try to ensure the best possible grounds in that respect. That is why we should try to make something that is good for the family and the farm as good as possible for all the members of the family, not only the successor and inheritor but potentially the others who will come after them. That is where I am coming from in tabling these amendments. It is an important discussion and it also will be important to monitor the operation of this new measure. I hope as this unfolds, as the new mechanism comes into place and more of those with family farms and businesses avail of the nursing homes support scheme because of the measures that made it much more workable, possible and effective, that these issues will be monitored to take account of any patterns that emerge and that suitable measures will be taken, be it through regulations, further amendment of this Bill, the review or separate legislation, to address any further concerns that arise.

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