The new Nursing Home Support Scheme is a is a novel way of doing things because it involves recouping in retrospect a portion of people’s assets to pay for their nursing home care when they have passed on, Fianna Fail Deputy Brendan Kenneally told the Dáil.

This, he said, was a very reasonable and forward-thinking measure and should give our elderly peace of mind, because it allows them to delve into the value of their asset to ensure they would be properly cared for and looked after in their old age.

“This will be of great benefit and consolation to them and their families and while they will ultimately contribute financially to their years in a nursing home, it will not reduce in any way their standard of living or their feeling of security that they always have their family home to fall back on. It is a means by which people can have their cake and eat it.”

He said he had no doubt there would be objections to the principle of this measure, but for the elderly themselves and for their families who otherwise would have to dig deep in their pockets, it allowed the best of both worlds. True, the eventual inheritance might not be as large or as valuable as had been anticipated when the 5% levy for nursing home charges had been collected, but it gave the elderly a sense of security and independence they did not have before. In this instance, it was the elderly who were the priority.

“The current situation is less than satisfactory and is not operating very well, with the result that there is a great deal of disquiet about it,” he said. “It can be inequitable, selective and hit-and-miss. This is no way to treat a section of our society who have a right to a better outlook in life than this. I am unsure of the exact number of older people in private and public nursing homes, but based on earlier figures I saw, an estimate of 25,000 would be quite reasonable.”

This was a section of our population whose numbers would only increase in the future, so it was very important to get this legislation right and ensure that proper funding was available to look after these people in their twilight years, he said.