Friday, 16 July 2021
Nursing Homes Support Scheme (Amendment) Bill 2021: Committee and Remaining Stages
Mary Butler (Waterford, Fianna Fail)
When considering how couples are treated under this Bill, fairness has always been the guiding principle. This is particularly relevant when considering the appointment of a family successor in respect of both members of a couple regarding the same productive asset in cases where both members of the couple are living and in cases where one member of the couple is deceased. I will address the issue of couples. When the Bill went through Committee Stage in the Dáil, I flagged my intention to bring forward a number of Report Stage amendments to provide for and protect the second partner in a couple. It is important to point out that when a couple are assessed and whether that couple are in a nursing home - there are occasions when a couple can be in a nursing home at the same time although they may not be in the same nursing home but it can happen - normally the assessment is 80% of one's income and 7.5% of the value of one's home, farm or business for three years, which, thankfully, is what will be provided for when this Bill is enacted. In the case of a couple it is 40% of their income and 3.75% of the value of their asset. There are also a number of questions pertaining to succession and inheritance arrangements and ownership models of assets that will need to be completed before the Bill is operationalised. The laws of succession are complex and the Bill will need to reflect the various scenarios that can occur when one member of a couple dies.
In the case of a surviving spouse, this person has clear rights under the Succession Act and the appointment of a family successor under this Bill cannot in any way usurp these rights. The successor is appointed for the purpose of the Nursing Homes Support Scheme (Amendment) Bill is there for one reason only, to ensure the farm stays in family ownership. The surviving spouse has clear rights under the Succession Act and there is no way a family successor can usurp that. Although the family successor is expected to actively work the farming business, it is not necessary under this Bill that the family successor ultimately inherits or has any rights at all to the farm or the business. That needs to be made very clear. This is not a condition of receiving the relief offered under the legislation.Therefore, nothing in the Bill could prejudice or negatively affect the rights of spouses of those who enter care services and seek assistance towards the cost of their care under the Bill.
Accordingly, while I recognise the concerns raised and will be sure to raise them with my colleagues in government, the issue is not sufficiently closely linked to the Bill, which is focused specifically on the operation of the nursing homes support scheme and the assessment of farms and business assets, to justify the inclusion of the amendment. As a result, I cannot accept it.