Friday, 16 July 2021
Nursing Homes Support Scheme (Amendment) Bill 2021: Committee and Remaining Stages
Mary Butler (Waterford, Fianna Fail)
I acknowledge the help and support the Cathaoirleach gave me over the past two weeks to ensure the Bill, which only passed Report Stage in the Dáil on Wednesday, would be taken in the Seanad on Second Stage yesterday and on Committee and Remaining Stages today. I thank all the Senators for their contributions to the debate and for their time, yesterday and today. Many of them have waited until the end of the debate even though it is the final sitting day before recess. I watched all my colleagues go home yesterday at 3.30 p.m. but I was delighted that the Seanad could sit late on a Friday evening, so I thank Senators very much for that.
It has taken some time to get to this point. Since I was appointed Minister of State with responsibility for older people and mental health, I have pursued the scheme's implementation as an absolute priority. Family farms and small businesses perform a vital role in providing employment and enhancing the future development of rural Ireland. For communities and families, they are not only an essential means of making a living but may also represent priceless assets, a link passed between generations and a connection to the land itself. I acknowledge my predecessor, the then Minister of State, Jim Daly, who got the ball rolling. It would be remiss of me not to mention him. The legislation was in progress when I took up the role and I recall discussing the Bill and statutory home care with him, among other matters.
It is essential that farms' value be protected in case people must enter long-term care in order that they remain viable and sustainable for families long into the future. The legislation will ensure that the fair deal scheme will operate more fairly for these families. It will mean farm families and business owners will not be afraid to go into long-term care because of what it might mean for their plans to pass on property. I am sure it will be welcomed throughout rural Ireland. I am delighted to have brought the legislation through the Houses and I extend my thanks to all those who have played a role in getting us here - Senators, Deputies and my colleagues in the Government - for providing the drive and challenge to move the agenda forward.
I thank the Attorney General, who has been very supportive to me. We have had many conversations because although the Bill sounds simple, it is highly complex. I thank the stakeholders representing older people, farmers and business owners for their input into the legislation. I thank also the officials in the Department of Health, the HSE and other State agencies for working tirelessly to develop the complex legal mechanisms behind the reform. I thank Ms Fiona Larthwell and Mr. Neil Kavanagh for their tireless work and for the hours and hours that have gone into the Bill, as well as their interaction with the Attorney General and officials. Lastly, I acknowledge the farm-owning and business-owning families of Ireland, in whose name this has been done.