National Systems of public policies define the macro parameters for the implementation, with the potential to influence agendas, distribute institutional capabilities, and generate certain convergence on the provision patterns in the subnational level. In this paper, we test whether these effects of coordination also occur in an area just recently structured as public policy: social assistance. In light of the coordination instruments defined by the Unified System of Social Assistance (Suas), the present work has a twofold objective. Firstly, we analyse the general levels of implementation of the basic protection services offered by the units of the Reference Centre of Social Assistance (Cras), the more capillary units for service delivery, checking whether the national parameters increased the general level of implementation and reduced inequalities. Secondly, we verify whether local institutional capabilities are related to the implementation. From that point on, we advance empirically, based on the available literature, developing original indicators to measure the implementation of services. Based on the data from the Suas census from the period between 2011 and 2016, we generated indicators to characterize the provision of services and benefits, just as the human resources and physical structure of the Cras units. The results indicate that there was indeed an increase in the levels of implementation over time, with a tendency to convergence between these types of equipment throughout Brazil and between regions and municipalities of different sizes. Part of this variation is explained by local capabilities. Although positive, this association is weak, which underscores the importance of studies about implementations contexts and multilevel governance.
National Systems of Public Policies; State capabilities; Implementation; Social Assistance