Public responsibility for social policies in Europe has been extensively ‘re-scaled’ in the last
decades, both upwards, from the national state towards the EU, and downwards, towards the local
level. In this complex process, ambivalent traits and impacts are emerging: on the one side
re-scaling may be associated with more participatory, place-specific and effective processes and
programmes; on the other it may entail blame avoidance, opacity and reduction in accountability.
Moreover, re-scaling processes are not uniform: they take different forms in different national
contexts and – within each context – in different policy fields. This chapter tackles the
ambivalences of the varying patterns of change in the vertical division of responsibility and their
implications for the delivery of social services. It explores the room for manoeuvre available to
local bodies for pursuing quality, efficiency and innovation; the emerging forms of local
governance; and the spaces for citizens’ participation and empowerment. All these aspects ultimately
affect territorial and social cohesion and equal opportunities for accessing welfare resources in
each country. The analysis is based on case studies produced within the COST Action IS1102 SO.S.
COHESION – Social services, welfare states and places, referring to three policy fields: early
childhood education and care, long-term care, and the social inclusion of migrants and Roma. The
chapter is organized in three sections: in the first, the theoretical debate on re-scaling processes
is briefly recalled to frame the trajectories observed in European welfare systems; in the second,
the possible repercussions of changes in the vertical division of responsibility are discussed,
taking into consideration the case studies; in the third, some conclusions are drawn, highlighting
critical policy issues.