Consumer Champion: Is Fair Deal the best deal for elder care, or should you look at other options?
One of the most powerful initiatives of recent years is Fair Deal or more properly, the Nursing Homes Support Scheme (NHSS). Anyone can apply, as long as they meet the medical requirements.
Patients contribute by way of income and assets and get to choose whichever home they wish, public or private. So far, so good.
However, a long awaited review of the scheme now shows serious shortcomings. Fair Deal looks in danger of running out of money.
Just 5pc of people end up in residential care, yet it takes up 60pc of the budget for older people services. The average contribution from residents is under €300-a-week, yet nursing home fees cost up to €1,500-a-week. Many people under-declare their assets meaning the system isn't collecting as much as it should; the honest people are subbing the rest.
It cannot be sustained, and yet it's so good it needs to be maintained. Minister Kathleen Lynch has kicked all to touch until after the election, and her intentions are good, but a serious overhaul is required, with a Revenue clampdown for it to work; the only other alternative is raising everyone's taxes to pay for it. Here's how it works at present:
A medical assessment is undertaken to prove need. A financial assessment values the resident's contribution as follows:
1. 80pc of resident's income is taken by the Scheme;
2. 7.5pc of all assets (savings, shares etc) is taken every year with the first €36,000 (€72,000 for couples) disregarded;
3. 7.5pc p.a. of the value of the family home (capped after 3 years or 22.5pc). Where there is a couple, 50pc of the income/asset figure is used.
It may be surprising that just 5pc of seniors opt for nursing home care, but many would much prefer to stay at home with extra supports.
Revenue has very generous tax relief for families who choose this option. If you employ a carer you can spend up to €75,000 p.a. on them with full tax relief.
It means the cost is cut in half for a higher rate taxpayer. It's still expensive, but the family home and assets are retained, and many adult children prefer this option.
If you avoid the Fair Deal scheme and simply pay full Nursing Home fees, you also get full tax relief at the highest rate of the payer. This is not necessarily the resident, but can be say, a higher earning adult child, who can then be compensated by siblings for the cost.
Home Care Packages are much sought after, and difficult to get, as unlike the Fair Deal scheme, there is no intrinsic right to them if you qualify. It is HSE dependent, and conditions vary around the country.
There are not enough community carers or nurses and this work is often out-sourced to private agencies like Home Instead or Bluebird, which are excellent.
Apply to your local HSE office for an assessment which will be medically based only. If you get 'free' hours, there is nothing stopping you supplementing them with private hours and getting full tax relief on this.
Finally, the Respite Grant for carers has been slashed and is now just €1,375, payable next June. Apply via welfare.ie.
Switch providers, not channels when it comes to TV
I'm not sure whether it's the prospect of all those endless repeats on during the summer but suddenly free television offers abound. Two main players in the TV market are giving incentives to tune into the goggle-box as competition intensifies in this space.
UPC is giving away free TV for 12 months for existing broadband and phone customers while new switchers can avail of it for €25 per month (€75 p.m. after the year is up). www.upc.ie or call 1890 940 624.
Over at Eircom, their eVision product is gaining traction and they're offering free TV and broadband for their phone package at €40 p. m. for six months (€58 p.m. thereafter), but it drops to €30 p.m. if you sign up online. They have a free Samsung smart-phone included and video on demand. www.eircom.ie or call 1800 303 439.
When moving contract always make sure your old one is up - you don't want to be penalised for breaking it. Generally speaking switching is easy, however in some cases where new wiring is needed, an engineer might have to come to your house, so do ask if drilling or cabling will need to be installed before you make up your mind. Initial offers to woo new customers can be attractive; but broadband/TV offers are often for a year or more, so make sure you cost it out over that time.
Now, any chance we can get some decent programmes to watch?
No need for Michelin starred food when it comes to your family picnic
I love picnics. They're just about my favourite way to eat, and a new survey from Avonmore says lots of you agree. 60pc are opting for eating al fresco in the summer, rather than expensive meals out.
The top three picnic spots are all in Dublin: the Zoo, Phoenix Park and Marley Park. Even if the weather sometimes means we end up with a 'car picnic' there's still no reason not to; you don't need to come over all cheffy either. A few soft rolls, some cheese, crisps and fruit and you're set. Don't forget the blanket!