Recent pronouncements from both government and carers' organisations have expressed disappointment at the low numbers of carers' assessments being undertaken by social care practitioners. The reasons offered for this are varied. They commonly tend to emphasise issues of bureaucratic incompetence, for example the failure by Social Services Departments to provide information to carers about their rights, or else highlighting practitioner attitudes that are out of step with current thinking, for example wanting to retain decision-making power and not involving carers. Scarcity of resources is a theme that permeates most explanations. While these explanations certainly have some validity, this paper argues that for many practitioners, the very nature of the relationship with carers is a problematic one, containing several interrelated areas of confusion, ambiguity and tension that often go unacknowledged—particularly by policy makers, politicians and senior managers whose ideas about carers are often based on idealisations of what a carer is. Carers have become reified. This paper discusses some of the major concerns and argues that the tensions, ambiguities and confusion experienced help explain the less than full engagement by some practitioners with the carers' agenda as promoted by carers' organisations and government policy.