Changes in the relationship of paid work, care and welfare have most impact on women, particularly those who are affected by welfare-to-work policies. A study of care in relation to transitions to the labour market made by women with dependent children in Glasgow suggests that women in low-income households face additional difficulties in achieving a balance of work and care. They may have more care responsibilities than other families but fewer material and social resources with which to carry them out. Neither the male-breadwinner model of family arrangements for the care and costs of children nor the adult-worker model that is replacing it in policy logic, takes into account their social and economic circumstances or the need for both formal and informal care to support successful transitions to further education and employment. Care is neither as straightforward to organise, nor as readily substituted for, as employment and welfare policies, in their limited attention to it, imply. The practices and meanings of care must be considered in depth if it is to be adequately understood and not further marginalised.