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A ‘raw deal’ under Fair Deal

A CLARE mother is facing the grim prospect of being forced to sell her family home or pay up to €114,000 over the next five years to cover the cost of long-term care for her incapacitated husband.

Councillor Tom McNamara has claimed the mother is getting a “raw deal” under the Fair Deal Nursing Homes Support Scheme because the needs of her two dependant children are not taken into account, due to an anomaly.

Councillor McNamara has requested Health Minister Dr James Reilly to change the current legislation to alleviate the distress being caused to this mother, as well as other similar hardship cases.

Under the existing scheme, the couple are jointly assessed to pay €600 weekly on top of the Fair Deal allowance to cover the cost of the husband’s long-term residential care in a Clare nursing home.

However, the most the mother can pay is €700 a month, leaving the remainder as a burden, which continues indefinitely on their family home.
Under the current scheme, 80% of an elderly person’s pension can be collected by the Health Service Executive (HSE), who also place a 5% levy on the value of their property or family home over a three-year period.

However, this doesn’t apply to Councillor McNamara’s constituent, who has to face the fact the financial burden could be levied on her family home indefinitely.

He said it is grossly unfair that this women is being placed under this financial pressure, as she tries to juggle with the demands of meeting the educational and other needs of her two children and overseeing the care provided to her husband.

“This is a very distressing situation for the family. Her children have to be educated and looked after. She can’t afford to pay the current bill and the rest is going on her property indefinitely, which is very unfair. Her husband could need long-term care for the next 15 or 20 years,” he said.

Councillor McNamara cited another case of a couple with three children, where a young mother became unexpectedly incapacitated, forcing her to obtain long-term care.

Despite their difficult circumstances, he noted the scheme does not take into account the income required to look after three children.
As the option of long-term residential care was not an option, he explained the father had to give up his job to look after his three children because he could not afford long-term care and childcare at the same time.

Councillor McNamara has highlighted the adverse effect of this anomaly on Clare families with the HSE West Forum.
Services for Older People principal officer, Barry Murphy, confirmed the issue of dependant children would be considered in a “comprehensive review” of the Nursing Homes Support Scheme, which is currently underway, with a view to completion over the coming months.

HSE West specialist in Services for Older People, Paschal Moynihan, confirmed the Nursing Home Support Scheme Act was introduced in October 27, 2009, which replaced the 1993 Nursing Homes Subvention Regulations Subvention Scheme. Under the subvention scheme, Mr Moynihan noted provision was made for dependant children in section six of the Third Schedule.

It stated “In calculating disposable income, a health board shall allow the following against income: €2,000 for each child under 21 years or in full-time education”.

Mr Moynihan admitted, under the new scheme, there is no provision for an allowable deduction for dependant children.

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