In countries that have experienced decentralisation processes, the role that central and sub-national authorities play in the governance of some social policies may vary considerably across regions. In Italy, for instance, whereas some regions (and municipalities) have been very active in financing social assistance programmes, others still overwhelmingly rely on resources directly allocated by the central government. This indicates that, in a ‘regionalised’ system, the development of a sub-national social dimension is not a territorially homogeneous phenomenon. Interestingly, cross-regional variation is mainly explained by differences in the strength of regionalist parties. The share of total social assistance spending allocated by sub-national authorities has increased significantly in those areas of the country where regionalist parties are stronger and does not seem to depend on ideological shifts on the left-right spectrum. Surprisingly, the positive effect of regional economic development on sub-national spending is not as strong as expected. On the other hand, female employment and population ageing seem to explain part of territorial divergence, the former having a positive effect and the latter a negative one on the dependent variable.