Changes to Fair Deal put on hold pending independent review, Minister says

Mary Butler warned that proposed changes to nursing home scheme could have ‘unintended consequences’

Government plans to allow nursing home residents to keep 100 per cent of the rental income generated from their homes under the Fair Deal subsidy scheme have been put on hold pending the completion of a review of their potential impact.

Minister of State for Older People Mary Butler said she hoped the independent review would be completed “within three or four weeks”.

She told The Irish Times on Tuesday that the review was agreed at a meeting with her Fianna Fáil colleague Minister for Housing Darragh O’Brien last Friday, at which she again expressed her “misgivings” about the Government plans.

Currently, nursing home residents on the Fair Deal scheme can retain 60 per cent of the rental income from their homes with the remaining 40 per cent going towards the cost of their care. The Government last week announced a change that would see them able to retain 100 per cent of such income.


The change was a key part of a deal the Coalition struck with a group of Independent TDs to shore up support as it resisted a Sinn Féin vote to extend the eviction ban.

Ms Butler, who was not informed of the change before it was announced, subsequently expressed concern about “unintended consequences” of the move, such as people prematurely entering nursing homes. She also questioned whether it would actually, as intended, increase the number of properties available to rent to ease the housing crisis.

‘Genuine concerns’

At their meeting on Friday, the she and Mr O’Brien agreed to bring forward a planned review into the way rental proceeds from Fair Deal lets are split, Ms Butler said.

“We had a really good open frank discussion on Friday and I articulated my genuine concerns,” she said. “I’m worried that due diligence hadn’t been given to the unintended consequences that might arise by a quick change like this.”

Since November, just 24 houses belonging to Fair Deal residents were made available to rent, she said.

Ms Butler noted that 17 per cent of nursing home residents die within the first six months of their stay, and 30 per cent within the first year. Some residents have arrangements to visit their houses regularly, she pointed out.

The Minister was speaking at the launch of a new community campaign to support people living with dementia and their families. The HSE-led “Dementia: Understand Together” encourages people to become dementia “champions” and to wear a symbol or badge showing their support for dementia-inclusive communities.

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen

Paul Cullen is Health Editor of The Irish Times