BY EMMA CONNOLLY
THE ‘deep seated fear’ felt by the rural community towards the Fair Deal Scheme has been removed after sweeping changes to the system were announced by Cork South West TD Minister Jim Daly.
The Clonakilty-based Minister of State at the Department of Health has proposed to cap the current Fair Deal contribution on farm and business assets at three years - which has been the case on the family home.
That compares to the current scheme where a contribution of 7.5% is taken from the farming community on an annual basis with no cap.
This then led many to believe the scheme could result in the sale of their farm to pay for nursing home fees, creating fear amongst many farming families across the country.
Explaining the changes Minister Daly said: ‘Currently we have a situation where someone could be availing of the Fair Deal Scheme for 10 years or more, which in turn means that 7.5% is essentially taken from their farm or business assets every year, until there is no value left in the asset.
‘What I am proposing is that we change the current legislation to place a cap on how long someone must continue to contribute to the Fair Deal scheme,’ he said.
‘I feel introducing a cap on contributions after three years, which is currently the case on the family home, is appropriate and will be welcomed by all. It will give certainty to farm families who are planning to continue in the industry and will be transferring assets to the next generation. ’
Minister Daly said the next step is to meet with the IFA after the Budget to discuss the proposal in detail and he expects to be in a position to start the legislative process in January 2018.
ICSA president Patrick Kent has welcomed the fact that ‘farmers won’t be disproportionately discriminated against any longer.’
The organisation’s rural development chairman Seamus Sherlock said this week: ‘ICSA has always believed that a three year cap was the most equitable solution for farming families and small businesses. As the scheme currently stands, perfectly viable farms and business could be rendered unviable because of the inherent unfairness built into the scheme.
‘This has resulted in a deep seated fear of the scheme in rural Ireland with many believing that opting into the Fair Deal scheme could eventually lead to the sale of their farm to pay for nursing home fees.’
IFA president Joe Healy said changes to the scheme ‘were long overdue and the removal of uncapped liability on farm assets would go some way to addressing the concerns of farm families.’
However, he said that there would be a degree of frustration regarding the length of time it will take to implement the changes.
‘The IFA will be having follow-up meetings with the Minister to discuss further detail relating to the proposed changes and to ensure that the changes are implemented as soon as possible,’ he promised.