The Italian NHS is paradigmatic of broader trends toward decentralisation, marketization and a new balance between public and private funding. Inspired by a mere logic of cost-effectiveness and indiscriminate cuts, the restructuring of the NHS is contributing to increased inequalities and territorial disparities. Experiments in social innovation have been also implemented in the labour market in order to cope with new social risks, i.e. precarious employment and the inability to reconcile work and family life. However, the Italian welfare state has not been structurally reformed to deal with these new risks yet.
In conclusion, we question the idea that social innovation can substantially address the inadequacies of the Italian welfare state, counter-balancing the retrenchment of public social provisions. Against this backdrop, general calls to social innovation may contribute to a shift in political attention from public to private responsibility and be instrumental in avoiding heated discussions on structural inequalities. In absence of a structural reform of the Italian welfare state, social innovation might then become a buzzword echoing neoliberal mantras in times of austerity.