The reorganization of Welfare systems has concerned a redistribution of functions, tasks and "spaces" of autonomy in decision-making processes among layers of government, organizations and actors. In Italy, these processes have affected both the planning policies and their implementation. Specific combinations of normative indications and regional and local conditions have produced geographically diversified Welfare systems. The principle of subsidiarity and the governance perspective create unresolved dilemmas defining different and even potentially divergent outcomes. Thus many interesting questions arise about the balance of the principles of autonomy and equity and the limit of an "institutional" discretion. The risk is to institutionalize sub-national imbalances and inequality among citizens. In the area of social policies, where the rights enforceability can be reduced, it is often combined to a substantial "operative" discretion, assigned to the actors working on implementation. In a regulatory framework characterized by uncertainty and often supported by limited resources, professionals and organizations are dealing with complex and rapidly changing needs, trying to balance specificity and equity of performances, flexibility and guaranteed rights, exceptions and emergencies.
Keywords: Social-assistance, subsidiarity, discretion.