Changes to Fair Deal Scheme welcomed but Minister warned issues remain

Tipperary Star reporter

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Changes to Fair Deal Scheme welcomed but Minister warned issues remain

ICSA rural development chair Seamus Sherlock

ICSA rural development chairman Seamus Sherlock, while welcoming changes to the Fair Deal Scheme, has said that there is a still a major sticking point in relation to the scheme.

“ICSA welcomes the move to limit contributions from a family business to three years of nursing home care. However, there is a major question mark about the constitutionality of taking funding from the forced sale of land from a person who is not actually the beneficiary of the nursing home care,” he said.

Mr Sherlock said that this arose because there was currently a five-year look back clause under the Fair Deal Scheme.

This means that where a farmer transfers a farm to his son and daughter before the nursing home care need emerges, the successor is still liable for the bill by way of having a burden on the farm.

“There are many examples where this is manifestly unfair. It implies that liability for nursing home care is exclusively applied to the farming child and not the other children of the person in the nursing home,” he said.

Mr Sherlock said that it was “outrageously unfair” that a farm which was transferred in good faith and totally unencumbered could possibly acquire a large encumbrance in the form of nursing home fees without even the consent of the transferee.

“However, the more interesting question is whether it is constitutional?” he asked

If the parent sold the farm, the new owner would be entitled to unencumbered title and there could be no look back clause so why not in the case of a properly executed transfer, said Mr Sherlock.

ICSA is urging Minister Daly to take this opportunity to build on the good work he has already done by remedying this anomaly. Otherwise it is only a matter of time before it is challenged in the courts, in our view, said Mr Sherlock.

However, the rural development chairman said the future viability of the family farm structure had moved a step closer with the announcement in July of key changes to the scheme when Minister of State for Mental Health and Older People Jim Daly revealed that the Government had approved proposals to change the treatment of farms as well as small business under the Fair Deal Scheme

“Rectifying the profoundly unfair elements of the scheme has been a top priority for ICSA. For too long, farmers in particular have been stuck between a rock and a hard place when it came to Fair Deal,” said Mr Sherlock.

ICSA had always believed that a three-year cap was the most equitable solution for farming families and small businesses, he said.

The changes will see contributions from the asset capped at 22.5 per cent over three years and will bring the treatment of family farms in line with the treatment of family homes.

Mr Sherlock praised Minister Daly for his action and said that there was now a need to see the legislation move through the Oireachtas as “quickly as possible”.