We present the findings of 57 interviews conducted in 2007–2008 with Canadians who have cared for a dying family member to examine their ideal expectations of the Compassionate Care Benefit (CCB) – a social programme providing job security and income support for workers caring for a dying person. Our aims are to (1) appreciate how intended users and other family caregivers view the programme’s very nature; (2) identify programme challenges and improvements that emerge from considering family caregivers’ ideal expectations; and (3) contribute to a larger evaluative study designed to make policy-relevant recommendations for CCB improvement. Review of transcripts across three respondent groups reveals four categories of ideal expectations: (1) eligibility, (2) informational, (3) timing and (4) financial. Ideal expectations were typically derived from respondents’ experiences of care-giving, their knowledge of the programme and, for some, of applying for and/or receiving the CCB. Findings reveal that there are gaps between respondents’ ideal expectations and their experienced realities. Such gaps may lead to disappointment being experienced by those who believe they should be eligible for the programme but are not, or should be entitled to receive some form of support that is not presently available. This analysis plays an important role in identifying potential changes for the CCB that may better support family caregivers, in that the ideal expectations serve as a starting point for articulating desirable programme amendments. This analysis also has wider relevance. For jurisdictions looking to create new social programmes to support caregivers based upon labour policy strategies and legislation, this analysis identifies considerations that should be made at the outset of development. For jurisdictions that already have employment-based caregiver support programmes, this analysis demonstrates that programme challenges may not always be met through legislative changes alone but also through measures such as increasing awareness.