Friday, June 17, 2011

Nursing Home subventions reduced for the aged while cohabiting couples get a tax break

The ‘Fair Deal’ scheme for nursing home residents in Ireland was established in 2009 by the then Minister for Health.   The scheme, whose purpose it is to ease the anxieties of people who for one reason or another find it necessary to live in a nursing home rather than their own home.   In brief, the person in question pays 80 percent of his or her State pension, if applicable, to the nursing home, and the State pays a certain proportion of the overall cost incurred in nursing home care.   If there is a discrepancy between the cost of the nursing home and the combined amount paid in by the resident and the grant from the State, then the resident has the possibility of acquiring a repayable ‘loan’ from the State to make up the shortfall.   The scheme has been in operation for some time now, and it appears to be working well.

However, the new Minister for Health announced recently that the finances required to continue with the scheme were drastically reduced, and he called a halt to new applications for participation in it.   Then he decided that he would resurrect the scheme – but the finances needed to do so were to be provided partly by increasing nursing home charges for existing residents!    A big proportion of these residents are already just about making ends meet in paying the cost of their care and accommodation, and to continue the running of the scheme by putting an extra burden on these, mostly elderly and ill people, seems a very cruel way in which to raise the finances required to continue the running of the scheme into the future.

Meanwhile, a newspaper headline stating: ‘Cohabiting couples to get equal tax treatment’, is a somewhat misleading description of what is promised by the Minister for Finance.   The newespaper report tells us that: ‘The Government has published legislation that will allow cohabiting couples the same tax treatment as married couples.  The legislation, arising from the Civil Partnership Act, will allow registered civil partners the same treatment in matters of income tax, stamp duty, capital acquisitions tax, capital gains tax and VAT.  The measures contained in the Finance (No. 3) Bill 2011, published by Minister for Finance Michael Noonan yesterday [9 June 2011] were among the commitments in the programme for government.   … The Bill was strongly welcomed by the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network, which described it as a critically important development for civil partners.’ 
One of the spokespersons of the homosexual agenda is quoted as saying that the Bill ‘provides important certainty and security for the many same-sex couples who have registered or are planning to register their civil partnerships.’ 
There are a few points here that need commenting on.  The first is that the ‘Civil Partnership … Act’ was enacted primarily to give legal recognition to the unions of same-sex couples, and by doing so and particularly by cementing that recognition with concessions which up until the present time were enjoyed only by married couples, same-sex unions have now been put on a par with marriage.  Also, sadly, a child/children of one of the same-sex union partners will now be part of the proceedings – is this a foretaste of adoption of children by same-sex partnerships being made possible?
A second point is in relation to the ‘cohabiting couples’ referred to in the headline.  The ‘Civil Partnership … Act’ was enacted on behalf of same-sex couples.  They are the people who can now legally enter into a ‘civil partnership’.    Ordinary couples have always been free to contract a civil marriage, if they so wish.   The ‘Civil Partnership … Act’, in order not to appear to be favouring same-sex couples, grants some concessions to cohabiting couples who don’t wish to contract a civil marriage, in a number of tax and other matters.
Apart altogether from the attack on marriage and the family arising from the implications of the ‘Civil Partnership … Act’, an important question to be considered is this – where, in the present financial crisis, will the money come from in order to give effect to the tax and other concessions being granted to same-sex couples?  If and when such finance is found, would it not be more equitable to apply it to the nursing home scheme that I dealt with at the beginning of this blog?    Are elderly and ill people to suffer, while same-sex couples enjoy tax reliefs and concessions properly the right of married people?