The minimum essential standard of living, MESL, is an assessment, developed by the Vincentian Partnership for Social Justice, VPSJ, of the minimum income needed to live and partake in the social and economic norms of everyday life for various household types. My Department has partly funded the excellent, detailed work of the VPSJ for a number of years, and I find it extremely useful.
One of the benefits of the work of the Vincentians is that it provides the different levels of income needed by different household types, including the different costs that arise for households in rural and urban locations. The most recent report from 2019 indicates that the welfare system already provides adequate supports for some household types, for example, families with young children in urban locations and pensioners, but that there is an adequacy gap with respect to other households types, for example, families with older children.
In recent years, my Department has recognised these challenges. Budget 2019 introduced a new, higher rate of increase for qualified children aged 12 and over, under all social welfare schemes, and budget 2020 again provided for a higher increase for older children. Changes were also made to enhance the working family and one-parent family payments. I will again use the work of the Vincentians to inform my approach to the forthcoming budget.
With regard to the suggestion of linking welfare rate changes to an index such as the MESL, the previous Government committed to developing an approach to benchmark pension payments to inflation and earnings and, as part of its Roadmap for Social Inclusion 2020-2025, has also committed to consider extending this approach to other welfare payments. While any change to the current process of setting social welfare rates would require Government approval and would have to be considered in the overall policy and budgetary context, I will bring forward proposals in respect of both of these commitments over the next 12 months.