Mainstream literature on paid care for children, frail elderly people and people with chronic illness or disability, and unpaid care provided usually by family members within households and kin networks tends to establish dichotomies: formal/informal, commodified/non-commodified. Recent feminist literature rejects these dichotomies, developing models of social care in which the interconnections of paid and unpaid care are mapped within policy frameworks. This paper uses theoretical frameworks of ‘social care‘: care as labour; care as a relationship embedded in obligation; care incurring a range of costs; to explore two case-studies: young carers aged up to 24 years who are most often caring for a co-resident parent; and grandparents who are the primary carers of their grandchildren. The latter may occur under the aegis of child protection authorities, or Family Court orders, or in informal arrangements, not licensed by state authorities. This analysis of the international literature and Australian research data affirms the power of the social care framework, and also shows the influence of social policy settings on informal care provision.