Wednesday, 2 March 2022
Department of Health
170. To ask the Minister for Health the progress being made with respect to the reform of the fair deal scheme to remove disincentives to selling or renting homes that have been vacated as a result of their owners being in nursing homes; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [11857/22]
The Nursing Homes Support Scheme (Amendment) Act 2021, which was signed into law on 22 July 2021, introduced further safeguards into the NHSS to further protect the viability and sustainability of family farms and businesses. It also includes an amendment in relation to applying the 3-year cap to the proceeds of sale of a house while a resident is in long-term care. This addresses the first relevant commitment in the Housing for All Strategy (action 19.7). This removed a disincentive against the sale of properties that might otherwise remain vacant.
As well as introducing the change above, the Department of Health has also agreed to action 19.8 in the Housing for All Strategy to develop a mechanism in relation to the rental of vacant properties "in a way that is targeted, equitable, evidence-based and provides appropriate safeguards for vulnerable older people". It is important to note that complex policy questions remain in meeting these criteria and there are high risks associated with unintended consequences.
The NHSS is a complex €1.4 billion Scheme that relies on €350m of contributions from over 22,000 residents. It is important to ensure that the costs, benefits, and unintended consequences of any policy changes are fully understood and resolved before they are put in place. There is no existing exemption of rental or similar income from assessment within the Nursing Homes Support Scheme and due care needs to be taken to ensure that any future changes are appropriate to protect and meet the needs of residents while also making provision for those in need of housing.
The Department of Health, the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage and other government departments continue to collaborate on this policy, including the identification of the number of houses that may be brought into use and the costs associated with the policy options available to address this action, with a view to introducing legislation as soon as possible once this analysis and policy development is complete.