The Irish Farmers' Association has welcomed the Government's approval of a proposal to change how farms and businesses are treated under the Fair Deal scheme.

Minister of State for Mental Health and Older People, Jim Daly confirmed the move yesterday.

Currently, those availing of the Fair Deal scheme must contribute up to 80% of their income and up to 7.5% of the value of any assets towards their cost of care.

Under the rules, the value of a person's home is only included in the financial assessment for the first three years of their period in care.

The Government has now decided the three year cap will be extended to farms and businesses where the farm or business is being operated by a member of the family for six years.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Mr Daly credited the IFA in particular for bringing the issue to his attention.

He said that many elderly people who are in need of assistance are delaying going into a nursing home and are not availing of the care they need because they fear losing the productive asset their son or daughter will make a living from.

Minister Daly said there are a number of issues that need to be addressed with the scheme, but he decided to start with this one issue and he hopes to keep the focus on it and get it through the houses by the end of this year.

He said it is important to keep farms viable, maintain the farming community and food security.
 
Mr Daly also said a pricing review that was due to be published 13 months ago will not be ready before the end of this year.

He said the report had been compiled with the assistance of outside consultants but many areas were not addressed satisfactorily and had to be re-done.

The IFA has said it is important that the changes are introduced into legislation as soon as possible.

The organisation's farm family chairperson Caroline Farrell said: "The uncertainty created by the uncapped liability on the farm business assets has caused huge distress, with the viability of some farm businesses being undermined or lost while families try to meet the cost of care."