When young people care for a parent with illness or disability their lives are different. This study 'examines the young carer's transition to adulthood'. The profile of 60 young carers is described; half were in lone parent families. Almost all were performing domestic tasks as well as providing general and/or personal care; some were also caring for younger children. Education, training and employment opportunities were, in reality, not available to them. Most of the families were outside the labour market and received welfare benefits. Social exclusion and poverty were widespread. One third of the families received no services at all. Caring had both positive and negative effects on the young carers who remained at home longer than their peers but matured earlier and had high levels of life skills and stress. The implications for policy and practice emphasize the need for services for these young carers.