The passing of the Carers (Recognition and Services Act) 1995 was a step forward in trying to ensure that people who provide informal care to disabled, sick or elderly relatives or friends are properly recognised and properly supported. The Carers Act gave informal carers the right to an assessment of their own needs, and this article is based on a study into the impact of the legislation in four local authority social services departments. It is argued that the vision of supporters of the Carers Act, namely to achieve real benefits for many carers, has yet to be realised. The analysis draws on Klein et al.’s (1996) framework of service rationing strategies to demonstrate that decisions about priority setting and different forms of rationing of social care took place at three different levels: national government, local authority and front-line practitioner. Evidence is presented to show that some carers chose to impose rationing on themselves by reducing their demands. The article concludes with comments on the implications of rationing decisions for policy and practice.