The social risk literature examines the extent to which states have provided social protection against the 'old' social risks of the post-war era and the 'new' social risks affecting post-industrial capitalist states. In this paper the contingency of the provision of informal care to people aged 65 and over is discussed. The paper deconstructs the concept of social risk to determine the characteristics and processes which contribute to states recognising specific contingencies as social risks which require social protection. This conceptualisation is applied to make the case that care-related risks associated with the informal care of older people should be recognised and treated as social risks by states. Data from a qualitative study of the English care policy system provide empirical evidence that informal care-related risks are recognised, but not treated, as social risks in England. The findings reveal informal carers, and the older people they care for, receive inadequate and inconsistent statutory protection against the poverty and welfare risks they face. Furthermore the design and operationalisation of the English care policy system generates risks for care relationships.