Estimating the MESL costs for families in Direct Provision


The Vincentian MESL Research Centre at SVP’s latest Working Paper “Estimating the MESL costs for families in Direct provision” is the first, desk-based, stage of a project to establish the Minimum Essential Standard of Living needs for families with children living in the Irish Direct Provision system.

The Minimum Essential Standard of Living (MESL) research engages with members of the public to identify the cost of what is required to live and partake in Irish society today, meeting the physical, psychological and social needs of individuals and households at a minimum but acceptable level. The research counts the actual weekly cost of over 2,000 goods and services included in the MESL baskets, which are needed to enable a socially acceptable minimum standard of living, that no one should be expected to live below. It provides an evidence-based benchmark of what is required for a life with dignity, and has become an integral part of the policy discourse around income adequacy, poverty and social inclusion.

Direct Provision is Ireland’s system of State provided accommodation and other basic necessities, including food, utilities, medical care and income support, for those awaiting decision on their asylum application. The Direct Provision system is managed by the International Protection Accommodation Service (IPAS), which is a division of the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth.

To estimate the MESL costs for families in Direct Provision, we conducted a review of documentation on the Direct Provision system, and consulted with an Expert Group of organisations working directly with those living in Direct Provision.

Throughout the review and consultation, a large variation in the standard and type of service provided to those living in Direct Provision accommodation across the country became clear. This made the estimation of the MESL costs complicated, as depending on the level of service provided, the contents of the baskets could vary.

To address this, a specific scenario for the family being considered was established.

The Working Paper considers One and Two Parent families, with two children, one of Primary School age and one of Secondary School age. They are assumed to be within their first six months of living in Direct Provision and rely solely on income provided by the State. They are living in an IPAS Accommodation Centre and have use of shared self-catering facilities within this centre. They use the transport service provided by their accommodation centre, with some use of public transport.

Adjustments were made to the existing MESL baskets for the “general population” to remove the goods and services not applicable and to add additional or different goods and services required when living in Direct Provision. These included; removing the cost of healthcare services and prescription charges from the MESL Health basket, as families in Direct Provision are entitled to a medical card and are exempt from paying prescription fees, and adding additional weekly Public Transport journeys for children to enable participation in extra-curricular activities and to facilitate social inclusion in the MESL Transport basket.

From these adjustments, the cost of the families MESL need was estimated. We then examined the adequacy of current income supports provided by the State to families living in Direct Provision, in comparison to their estimated MESL need.


One Parent, Two Child

Two Parent, Two Child

MESL expenditure









Table: Weekly estimated MESL need, and average weekly income

Our analysis finds that for each individual family member living in Direct Provision accommodation, the income supports provided are inadequate to meet their estimated MESL need, and that this inadequacy is compounded at Household level.

Due to the scale of the inadequacy shown in the findings, it seems inevitable that families living in Direct Provision accommodation are going without goods and services that people need to live and participate in Irish society, at a standard of living which no one should be expected to live.

The Working Paper also examines how the introduction of a Child Benefit-like payment for families with children living in Direct Provision would impact the income adequacy of the families being considered. The Working Paper finds that a Child Benefit-like payment would improve the level of both household type’s income. However, it would not be enough to provide households with an adequate income which would meet their estimated total MESL need

Full paper linked here .

More about the MESL research linked here .