Towards shock-responsive social protection - Maintains

Towards shock-responsive social protection is a study from Maintains examining how the social protection systems in six countries have been adapted or expanded in the COVID-19 response. The study aims to identify policy actions to better prepare national social protection systems to respond to future shocks.

About the study

Almost all countries have adapted their social protection systems to support households and to mitigate the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The responses have differed widely and included both the development of new social protection programmes, as well as the expansion and adaptation of existing programmes.

This research examines how the social protection programmes, processes, and delivery systems in the six Maintains countries–Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Kenya, Pakistan, Sierra Leone, and Uganda–have been used to respond to the COVID-19 crisis, and to understand the factors that have enabled successful responses, as well as the factors that have constrained them.

The study aims to identify policy recommendations to inform and influence investments in social protection systems to prepare for future shocks.

Cash transfer as part of a social security program in Northeastern Kenya.
Cash transfer payment as part of a social assistance programme in North-eastern Kenya.
Credit: Colin Crowley

Research objectives

  • Document the social protection responses in all six Maintains countries, particularly the use of social protection delivery mechanisms and information systems.
  • Assess the social protection responses in these six countries in terms of their adequacy, coverage, comprehensiveness, and timeliness.
  • Provide recommendations for future responses and investments in shock-responsive social protection systems.


The conceptual framework for this study outlines the three dimensions of our analysis:

  • Response type: this includes strategies to minimise disruptions to routine service delivery; adaptations to address new vulnerabilities arising from the crisis through vertical and/or horizontal expansion or new programmes; and humanitarian assistance that leverages on or aligns with the social protection system.
  • Policies and operational procedures: this focuses on how the response was operationalised, including how the policies, systems, and operational procedures used along the delivery chain were developed and/or adjusted.
  • Outcomes: this is an assessment of the outcomes of each social protection response in terms of adequacy, coverage, comprehensiveness, timeliness, and long-term implications.

We conducted a literature review of key documentation and a series of key informant interviews with stakeholders involved in the response, in order to gather information in relation to the first two dimensions. For the third, we used microsimulations based on a partial-equilibrium modelling framework to simulate the impact of the pandemic on poverty and inequality, as well as the mitigating effect of the social protection responses. We conducted these for Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Sierra Leone and drew on existing simulations for Ethiopia, Kenya, and Uganda.

Research outputs

The study has a total of 18 outputs. All country studies will have a detailed report and short policy brief, three countries will have microsimulations, and we will draw together all the learnings from this into a synthesis report and short policy brief. These will be published below as they become available.

Conceptual framework Synthesis report Synthesis policy brief
Oxford Policy Management
Back to top