(Thursday 23 March 2023) Responding to the announcement that rental income will not be charged to the HSE under a revision to the Nursing Home Support (‘Fair Deal’) Scheme, Age Action said that older people will be put at risk of financial abuse because appropriate supports and safeguarding measures are not in place.
Insufficient consideration has been given to ensure the rights of older people are protected. In 2021, the HSE recorded reports of over 800 cases of financial abuse affecting older persons, with family members often accused of abuse. The majority of people living in nursing homes need acute care with many suffering from cognitive impairment or dementia, which creates an opportunity for financial abuse.
Three important steps should be implemented before this new change is implemented:
- Adult safeguarding law is needed to put in place robust measures that uphold the rights, health and wellbeing of all adults, including older persons. While the HSE, the Mental Health Commission and other bodies have guidelines, these are not yet underpinned by law.
- The definition of coercive control needs to be expanded. Coercive control means bullying someone into doing something against their will, but the law only recognises this as occurring between partners in intimate relationships, but it can and does happen to older persons too.
- More investment in home care is needed to alleviate the huge pressure that thousands of people are already under because they cannot get access to adequate home care. Many people living in nursing homes are there because they cannot be supported to live independently at home. Age Action knows of people who experience pressure to enter a nursing home because they cannot get enough or any home care hours. The proposed rental scheme will cause more pressure on those people to move out of their home prematurely, against their will and in a situation where they would be capable of living at home with adequate home care.
Nat O’Connor, policy specialist at Age Action said “We welcome the principle that older persons would be given more choice and control over their finances and their home, but this must include putting in place robust measures to prevent financial abuse that unfortunately occurs hundreds of times every year. Where someone loses capacity to make decision for themselves, we need adult safeguarding law and a wider legal definition of coercive control. And we need the new Decision Support Service to be fully operational. We also need to see reduced charges for essential legal processes like setting up Enduring Power of Attorney so that an older person’s will and preference are adhered to.”
“In relation to giving older persons 100% of the income from renting their homes, it is worth remembering that the ‘Fair Deal’ scheme only covers bed-and-board, and many people have to pay extra for therapies and even for essentials like a haircut, so giving people an option to generate extra income could be a lifeline for those who cannot currently afford these extra charges. But without safeguards in place, there is a risk that some older persons won’t see any benefit from their homes being rented out,” he concluded.