COVID-19 is having devastating social and economic impacts on individuals and household economies. The pandemic has exacerbated existing inequalities and vulnerabilities and has heightened the need for social protection interventions to cover people often not previously receiving assistance. For instance, urban informal workers have seen their livelihoods collapse in the face of lockdown and recession. Further, immediate impacts on household incomes are being compounded by increased incidence of gender-based violence, health impacts, and loss of education. Increased support has, so far, been mainly in the form of expanded social and humanitarian transfers (cash/vouchers/food assistance). It is unlikely that the economic situation will improve for many months if not years, and the long-lasting economic and social impacts of the crisis will affect the life-chances and opportunities of women and men, girls and boys.
Within this context, it is important to consider interventions that go beyond transferring cash or vouchers, and to consider a range of complementary interventions that can be implemented alongside cash transfers. This not only provides the opportunity to maximise the benefits of the cash itself but enables a more comprehensive approach to address the multiple risks and vulnerabilities which individuals and households face, by supporting access to relevant interventions, both in the short-term immediate response to COVID-19 and for longer-term sustainable and equitable recovery.
The aim of this document is to provide an overview of the options for linking cash transfers to complementary services in the context of COVID-19, drawing out lessons learnt from existing evidence and knowledge of good practices to highlight how cash plus can be effectively designed and implemented in crisis response.