It is estimated that more than 3,100 properties could be brought into use after a change to the Fair Deal scheme to allow nursing home residents to retain all income from renting out their home was approved by the Government.
The Cabinet gave the green light to Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly and Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien to make an order under the Nursing Homes Support Scheme (NHSS) Act to bring about the change in the system.
The NHSS, also known as Fair Deal, offers financial support to people requiring long-term nursing home care.
Under the old regulations those in nursing homes under Fair Deal had to give up 40 per cent of the income from their home if it was placed on the private rental market, making a contribution towards their care.
Amid political controversy over the Coalition’s decision to lift the temporary eviction ban in March, Mr O’Brien announced that 100 per cent of the rental income would be cleared for retention as part of a package of measures to combat vacancy.
The proposed order approved by the Government on Tuesday increases the percentage of rental income a nursing home resident can disregard for the NHSS from 60 per cent to 100 per cent.
A Government spokesman said it has been estimated that fully exempting nursing homes residents’ rental income from a primary residence could bring an additional 3,115 rental properties into use.
It is also believed that a number of the homes may be eligible to benefit from the vacant property refurbishment grants of up to €70,000.
There have been some concerns raised about the possible risks to older people presented by the change to Fair Deal.
Earlier this year Minister for Older People Mary Butler said she was not consulted on the plan, said she was “disappointed” with the move, and warned it could lead to older people being placed into nursing homes prematurely.
The Government spokesman said on Tuesday: “It is vital that residents who choose to rent out their homes do so in a safe and supportive way.
“To this end the enactment of the Assisted Decision-Making Capacity Act 2015, which came into effect in April, establishes a new legal framework for supporting decision-making.
“Enhanced processes and appropriate checks will be in place regarding NHSS applications.”
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