Farm families fear the viability of their family farm will be undermined or lost in meeting the cost of long-term care, IFA Farm Family Chairperson Maura Canning told an Interdepartmental Working Group on the Fair Deal Scheme last week.
Maura Canning reiterated IFA’s position that the assets farmers and other self-employed family businesses have are productive assets, and are required to generate income; they are not a measure of additional ability to pay for nursing home care and their value does not reflect their income earning capacity.
She said, the current financial assessment is not progressive, “The contribution to the cost of long-term care is the same for a farm with a value of €1million as for a farm with a value of €4million, all things being equal. The assessment is fundamentally unfair and has a disproportionate impact on low income farm families, where any further dilution of the farm assets could make the farm non-viable for future generations.
“Due to the high cost burden imposed on farm families, many are opting not to avail of the Fair Deal Scheme and are putting themselves under severe financial stress, to find money to cover the cost of care in the short term. Family farms are passed down from generation to generation, no one wants to be the generation responsible for making the farm non-viable for the next generation. The pressure is immense and must be recognised”.
“The uncertainty created for farm families by the potentially uncapped liability in the financial assessment of farm business assets is causing significant stress for older farmers and their families, at an already difficult time.”
Another area of concern, according to Maura Canning, is the vague definition of sudden illness or disability, in the case of which a 3-year limit is applied to non-residential assets. She said, “Many farm families want to take care of a loved one at home for as long as possible, but they are concerned that if they do they will be exempted from qualifying for the 3 year cap on the farm asset. The scheme must not act as a disincentive to farm families looking after loved ones at home.”
Maura Canning proposed the following changes to the scheme to remove the discrimination and uncertainty for farm families:
· The introduction of a reduced charge on the farm assets that reflects the ability to pay, similar to Agricultural Relief. The relief would need to be in excess of 75% to have a meaningful impact on the contribution to the cost of care. This is a much fairer assessment of ability to pay and would protect the viability of the farm asset for future generations.
· The financial assessment would only apply to assets that have been transferred prior to entering the nursing home for less than 3 years. This is a proposed reduction from 5 years currently and is in line with the cap on assets in the case of sudden illness.
· A broadened interpretation of 'sudden illness or disability' to include those who have been cared for at home for a short period, but subsequently require care in a nursing home.