One of the most striking reconfigurations of Irish social care has been the entry of private for-profit companies into a sector previously regarded as outside the market. This article examines the policy context that has given rise to these developments and the impact of marketisation on both the quality of care provision and the employment conditions of the workforce. Whether for-profit provision of care is a positive development is the subject of intense debate, and the arguments for and against are outlined alongside a range of empirical evidence. International research evidence is not convincing about the capacity of markets to deliver on quality or efficiencies. The article concludes with recommendations for further research to enable analysis and debate in the Irish context.