Members of the Irish Farmers Association held a protest outside the Department of Health today over issues with the Fair Deal nursing home scheme.

They say that farm assets should be treated differently under the scheme, as they are income-generating assets that typically pass to the next generation as a primary income source.

The IFA said that in 2017, the Government committed to introduce a three-year cap for productive assets for farmers.

IFA President Joe Healy said the changes needed to be introduced without delay and retrospectively applied to July 2018.

Meanwhile, the Health Service Executive said it is currently experiencing increased demand for the Fair Deal scheme.

The HSE said it committed within its 2019 service plan to maintain an average of 23,042 clients throughout the year. 

During February this year, 23,228 were supported by the scheme.

It said that activity levels are being monitored on a weekly basis and the HSE is in ongoing contact with the Department Of Health.

The Minister for Mental Health and Older People said he can give a cast iron guarantee that funding for the fair deal scheme is available and currently there are no delays for new applicants. 

Jim Daly said there are pressures in the scheme but these have been flagged.

In the case of farm and small business families, he said the Government has committed to putting a three year cap on the contributory assets and he hoped to bring the heads of bill to Government next month.

He added that he hoped the legislative journey could start this June. 

Mr Daly said the bill has been delayed because "Brexit has put an incredible draw on legal resources in every department" and slowed up the legal advice available to his department.