Review of Fair Deal income exemptions to consider ‘unintended consequences’

Decision to remove stipulation to pay portion of rent towards cost of care criticised

A review into income exemptions for the Fair Deal scheme will “consider potential unintended consequences” arising from the decision to allow nursing home residents keep all of the income from renting out their homes.

The decision to remove the stipulation that they must pay 40 per cent of the rent towards the cost of their care sparked a backlash this week from advocacy groups in the area, as well as criticism from Minister for Older People Mary Butler.

Ms Butler met Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien on Friday.

She said during the week that the removal of income exemptions could prompt premature entries into nursing homes, and that it was due to be examined as part of an independent review. The review was due to conclude in April. Mr O’Brien had earlier that day confirmed reports that the exemption would be removed in its totality.


Following the meeting, a spokeswoman for Ms Butler said the Ministers had had a “positive constructive meeting”.

“Both agreed as articulated during the week and in line with the legislation, that the review into income supports for the nursing home support scheme [Fair Deal] should proceed immediately.

“The independent review will consider potential unintended consequences and the additional safeguards necessary for the protection of vulnerable older persons.”

The removal had been sought by independent TDs who supported the Government in a vote on the eviction ban earlier this week. The Government countermotion this week committed to “move to eliminate remaining barriers to older people utilising the Fair Deal scheme who wish to rent out their homes”, following similar language in a list of amendments put down by the Regional Independent Group.

Earlier in the week Ms Butler said: “I would be worried too that there would be a premature entry of people into nursing homes if this rate was reduced to 0 per cent,” she said.

“Minister O’Brien is aware of my concerns, as is obviously Minister Donnelly, and I would have articulated these concerns on many occasions before and my position hasn’t changed.”

The rules were relaxed last November to allow people keep more of the income, but she said only 24 people had availed of it since then. The plan was to review the changes next month.

“I was always of the opinion that we were going to review this in April and we were going to look at it then. Rental income for some people who go into nursing homes is not a solution for them. I know this sector really, really well, I’ve been working with older people since 2016, I know Fair Deal inside out – and the majority of older people who agree to go into a nursing home, because it is their choice, mostly will only go in if, for example, they can retain their home.

“I’ve raised these concerns before, I didn’t feel that by reducing the amount of rental income that we would see a surge of houses freeing up, and I have been proven right by that.

“Do I think by reducing the rental allocation that is considered for Fair Deal, do I think that will have a significant difference? I don’t think that it will, it didn’t have in the last six months,” she said.

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones

Jack Horgan-Jones is a Political Correspondent with The Irish Times