High-quality early childhood care and education (ECCE) is now recognised as a core strategy for poverty reduction. There is evidence of high returns from ECCE investments, which can contribute to global policy priorities such as tackling child malnutrition, increasing children's successful participation in school, and strengthening economic development. In short, by supporting children and families early in life well-delivered ECCE can help to interrupt the cycle of poverty. But the reality is that this potential only becomes meaningful if ECCE programmes effectively reach the poorest and most marginalised children in the first place. Young Lives research finds significant inequalities in access to early education in Ethiopia, India and Peru, as well as clear discrepancies in the quality of services available. These findings underline the importance of ensuring that high-quality care and education in early childhood reach the poorest children if these policies are to fulfil their potential. This requires an increased focus on the most marginalised groups in society, targeted investments to improve the quality of services, and effective governance of both public and private sector provision, to support every child to have a good start in life.