The paper discusses the basic rationale which has inspired the intellectual re-orientation from
«social protection» to «social investment», with particular attention to child policy. The first section outlines the main features of the social investment approach contrasting it with the more traditional «Fordist» approach. The second and third sections explain why and how early child education and care can make a difference in both efficiency and equity terms. The fourth section briefly summarizes the British experience under New Labour governments, while the fifth section analyses issues of quality and accessibility. The conclusion wraps up the argument, highlighting the need to step up the shift towards social investments, overcoming the institutional and political obstacles to reform.
Key words: Child support, Preschool childcare, Welfare programs, Poverty.
JEL Classification: I300, I380.