Up to 2,000 homes could be freed up for rental under Fair Deal changes

Nursing home residents to pay State 40% of income from renting out home instead of 80%

As many as 2,000 homes in the State could be freed up for rental under changes to the Fair Deal scheme approved by the Government on Wednesday.

Under the Nursing Home Support Scheme, otherwise known as Fair Deal, the State pays part of the cost of nursing home accommodation with the person paying a portion, which comprises 80 per cent of their income that year plus 7.5 percent of their assets.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly and Minister of State for Older People Mary Butler sought Cabinet approval for the State to require nursing home residents or their family to pay 40 per cent of income from renting out their homes rather than 80 per cent which is required at present. The effective halving of the requirement would mean if a home vacated by a nursing home resident generated €1,000 in rent each month, the amount that would have to be paid into Fair Deal would be €400 rather than the current requirement of €800.

The Cabinet approved the memorandum which argued that the substantial reduction in the State’s take on rental income would incentivise more families to rent out empty properties vacated by elderly relatives now living in nursing homes.


It is estimated that some 8,000 homes are currently in Fair Deal. But the Government spokesman said on Wednesday the potential number of properties that would be available for rent was initially being estimated at 2,000. He said that many of the properties involved in the scheme have relatives living there at present, including spouses, and some other properties were not suitable for renting.

There are 22,000 residents of nursing homes signed up to the Fair Deal scheme, which costs the Department of Health €1 billion per annum. Some €350 million of the nursing home fees are borne by participants of Fair Deal.

Age Action policy specialist Nat O’Connor called for any changes to the Fair Deal scheme to be sustainable and to include supports to ensure the safety of the people going into nursing homes.

Mr O’Connor told RTÉ radio’s News at One that safeguards would need to be in place and that any decision to rent out a property should be made by the owner themselves when they go into a nursing home. “We have to have safeguards against abuse,” he added. He said the law on coercive control needed to be looked at, as even if the number of cases of abuse was small, it was still a problem.

There needed to be a package of measures to protect people, said Mr O’Connor. Where possible, he would like to see the rental income going directly to the person in the nursing home to cover their costs as very often there were extra charges and not all of their needs were met.

In cases of dementia or significant cognitive impairment, people might not be aware of what was happening and there should be support services to help people make decisions, he said.