Objective. The Serious and Continuing Illness Policy and Practice Study (SCIPPS) aims to improve the care and support for patients with chronic illness and their family carers. Here we describe the carers' contribution to the self-management partnership and discuss the policy and practice implications that are relevant to improving the support available for informal care in Australia. Design. A secondary analysis of SCIPPS data. Fourteen carers of patients between 45 and 85 years with chronic heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and diabetes were conveniently sampled from western Sydney and the Australian Capital Territory. Semi-structured interviews were conducted. Data were analysed using qualitative content analysis. Results. Key roles that carers perform in the self-management partnership included: home helper; lifestyle coach; advocate; technical care manager; and health information interpreter. Two negative consequences of juggling these roles included: self-neglect and conflict. Conclusions. Rigid eligibility criteria limit carers' access to essential support programs which underestimates and undervalues their contributions to the self-management partnership. Support services should focus on the development of practical skills to perform the caregiving roles. In addition, health professionals require support to work more effectively with carers to minimise the conflict that can overshadow the care and self-management partnership.