A three-year cap on the financial contributions of family owned and operated farms or businesses, when calculating the cost for nursing home care, is being introduced by the Government.

It will apply where a family successor commits to working the farm or business.

The amendment to the Nursing Homes Support Scheme, commonly known as Fair Deal, was announced today by Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly and Minister of State for Older People Mary Butler.

Under Fair Deal, residents make contributions to their care based on a financial assessment of their income and assets.

In this assessment, the capital value of an individual's principal private residence is only included for the first three years of a resident's time in care. This is known as the three-year cap.

Minister Donnelly said: "The Government recognises that currently the three-year cap on the financial assessment of a person's income and assets applies to family farms or businesses only in the case of sudden illness or disability.

"This situation may place unnecessary financial pressures on these families and could challenge the future viability of the farm or business."

He added: "The Bill brought to Cabinet today, delivers on the Programme for Government commitment to address this issue by introducing additional safeguards to the scheme to promote and protect the sustainability of family farms and businesses that will be passed down to the next generation."

Minister Butler said: "Updating the Nursing Home Support Scheme legislation to enhance protections for farmers and business owners has been and remains an absolute priority for me.

"I am very pleased that Cabinet has now approved the publication of the Bill, and I look forward to bringing this legislation before my colleagues in both Houses at the earliest possible opportunity.

"I anticipate that the Bill will receive broad, cross-party support."

Irish Farmers' Association President Tim Cullinan said Cabinet approval to the Fair Deal changes was long overdue.

"This is a very emotive issue for farm families. We will be studying the legislation closely when it comes before the Oireachtas," he said.

"The scheme as it stands is fundamentally unfair. It is bringing huge stress and worry on farm families, placing a question over farm viability while they wait on the Government to act," added the IFA President.

IFA Farm Family Committee chairperson Caroline Farrell said farmers were told over two years ago that the legislation was due.

"The update from Minister Butler is welcome, and we will be examining the detail."