In this article, we compare accounts given by young carers and specialist support workers about the riskiness of becoming a carer relatively early in life. We argue that since the mid-1990s, the policy response has problematised the comparatively early adoption of a caring role as a risk factor for future personal development. This temporal issue has become societally organised around concern about NEETs (young adults not in education, employment or training). Such a concern is predicated on cultural assumptions, now being undermined in response to economic crisis, about the existence of a critical age for transition to adulthood, successful navigation of which requires a time-limited period of personal freedom. Our findings suggest that, whereas support workers mostly see young caring in terms of risks to future prospects, young carers themselves identify not only current stresses, but also personal gains, from their experiences. Instead of categorising the timing of their caring as a source of risk, young carer respondents questioned service shortcomings which they felt made it harder for them to cope in the present, particularly inadequate social service support for relatives with disabilities and insensitivities in the education system. They did not see service providers as helping them to manage their futures. We locate this tension in risk social science debates about individualisation, transition to adulthood in late-modern society and risk management for those deemed vulnerable.