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Traditionally, social assistance and minimum income protection has been the weakest front of achievement of Southern European welfare state. In Spain, counteracting the inertia of the national level, all Autonomous Communities introduced programs that – albeit with differences - all aim at tackling poverty and social exclusion through universalistic benefits for individuals with incomes below an established threshold, associated with measures to promote social and labour market integration of beneficiaries.
The peculiarity of the Spanish case rests on the fact that regional safety nets have been introduced in absence of a national legislative framework setting minimum standards, guaranteeing coordination between different instruments, substituting regional governments in case of non-compliance and assuring the diffusion of best practices. Against this background, this paper aims to investigate the consequences of this uncoordinated decentralization process, providing firstly a detailed description of the policy evolution of regional safety nets in Spain and highlighting the comparative peculiarities of this fragmented minimum income model. Secondly, it discusses whether the decentralization process has led to greater efficiency and responsiveness to local specific issues, or rather has augmented territorial inequality between poor and rich regions in the possibility of accessing to inclusive and protective minimum income benefits.