DUP MLA Jim Wells says he uses his entire salary – and some savings – to pay the cost of his wife’s stay in a care home.
e said he was having to live off his wife’s pension.
The former health minister stressed he was not looking for sympathy as it was his duty, he said, to look after his wife, but wanted to highlight the situation faced by many others.
Six years ago, his wife Grace suffered a serious stroke and is now cared for in a care home.
Mr Wells said that she receives “excellent care” in the home where she lives.
He was speaking on the BBC Stephen Nolan show which highlighted the change of rules in how healthcare costs are met for those in care homes.
It was reported that for those people that need care, but outside a hospital, and have assets over £14,000, they will have to pay for part of the costs. If their assets are over £23,000, they will have to pay all the costs.
It could mean people have to sell homes and use savings to pay for care.
South Down representative Wells – who remains a member of the DUP but has had the whip withdrawn in the Assembly – said he had “no idea” about the change.
He said: “I had written various letters to the health minister about this in 2020 I would have thought he at least would have explained what was happening to me.
“Of course, I have a vested interest here, but there are many constituents in the same situation and essentially what they’re having to do is to sell their family home to fund care.”
The MLA revealed that the cost of annual fees was £38,000.
“Basically, my entire salary as an MLA goes toward care home costs, it’s as simple as that,” the MLA said.
“I think I’m getting excellent care for that, so I’m not complaining.”
He revealed that, because his income goes entirely to care home costs, he was living off his wife’s pension.
“I’m not asking for any sympathy or anything like that because we are married 38 years and I have that duty of care to look after her,” the former health minister said.
“I am fortunate I have a salary which is almost sufficient to cover the costs of the care, but that is a decision I’ve made.”
Mr Wells added that, at the time his wife was admitted to a care home he made enquiries about payment, “but there were no exceptions”.
“This is because our home is worth more than £23,250. Indeed, there’s probably no home in Northern Ireland worth less than that,” he said.
“Every month you get a bill of over £3,000 and you pay that and just accept that.”
Recently Prime Minister Boris Johnson proposed a cap on care home costs in England where people will no longer pay more than £86,000 in care costs.
Once people have reached this cap, ongoing costs for personal care will be paid for by local authorities.
Health Minister Robin Swann in February explained he wanted to address “inequality issues” across Northern Ireland’s health trusts.
“The key aim for everyone that does not need to be in hospital for a longer period of time is to get them well enough to return to whatever setting is most suitable for them in the community while ensuring that their health and social care needs are supported,” he said.