Developing an evaluation tool for Covid-19 policy choices

A proof of concept for a holistic assessment of the impact of Covid-19 and the Government’s policy responses

A report for the Covid Impact Assessment Unit programme by Baroness Philippa Stroud and Dr Stephen Brien

Published 15 Dec 2020

A framework to assess the impacts of Covid-19 across a range of factors

There is currently a significant debate over the extent to which Government policy in response to the Covid-19 pandemic can be informed by a holistic impact assessment of different policy choices across health, society, and the economy.

This report provides a proof of concept for such a tool, from which the inherent trade-offs that are in place can be understood.

The framework is based on the methodology of the Legatum Prosperity Index, which analyses the drivers of prosperity around the world. It assesses the impacts of Covid-19 across a range of factors including:

  • Direct health effects associated with mortality and illness from the virus itself.
  • Indirect physical and mental health effects associated with changes in health service and care system provision, and behaviour and health impacts that are related to the pandemic but are not caused by the virus itself.
  • Economic effects associated with lost economic output, incomes, and productivity.
  • Education effects associated with school closures and disruption to the provision of education in other settings.
  • Wider impacts that can cover a multitude of areas where the pandemic and people’s responses to it (in terms of chosen or enforced changes in behaviour) lead to impacts on wellbeing.

The framework looks at both short- and long-term impacts, and presents results in a way that allows the impacts across these different areas to be considered together.

This does not provide ‘the answer’ over whether the Government’s previous choices have been the right ones, or for what specific strategy it should follow next. However, it does demonstrate the key role of a tool such as this in teasing out trade-offs and questions that need to be answered as part of an evidence-based policymaking process.

We hope that the Government will develop and build on this framework to allow policymakers to better understand the breadth of impacts, how they interact with each other, and the assumptions chosen and trade-offs that are presented by different policy choices. We hope it will also provide a way for policymakers and politicians to communicate the evidence behind the choices being made, to increase the transparency of the decision-making process and build trust that is much needed as the country continues to respond to the pandemic.

In this way we could begin to have a deeper and more honest debate about the choices the country has faced over the last nine months and will face in the coming days, weeks, months, and years. This would put Government policymaking on a stronger footing and make it more likely that it can pursue, and achieve, the best overall outcomes for individuals, families, and communities right across the UK.

A presentation filmed on 14th December 2020 in which CEO Baroness Philippa Stroud and Director of Policy Dr Stephen Brien outline the framework approach and methodology, using the 31st October 2020 decision to move from a tiered system in England to a national lockdown as an exemplar of how this framework could be used in policymaking, is available here.


Developing an evaluation tool for Covid-19 policy choices:

A framework to assess the impacts of Covid-19 across a range of factors

By Baroness Philippa Stroud and Dr Stephen Brien

Dec 2020

Download the reportPDF