Nearly half a million older and disabled people who would have received social care five years ago have been cut completely out of the system.
Nine out of 10 councils have withdrawn funded care from people with an “inability to carry out several personal care or domestic routines”, according to a new study by the London School of Economics.
Academics say it would cost £2.8bn a year to reinstate the care to this group who are judged to have “moderate” needs.
Even to maintain the current situation – in which the vast majority of councils only meet “substantial” and “critical” needs – would cost £1.6bn because of the pressure of an ageing population, they add.
The findings come as MPs prepare to debate the Care Bill in the House of Commons.
The Care and Support Alliance, a group of 75 organisations and charities including Scope, Age UK and the Alzheimer’s Society, say the findings reveal the “true scale of the social care crisis”.
Richard Hawkes, chair of the coalition, said: “Chronic under-funding has left nearly half a million older and disabled people, who need support to do the basics, like getting up or out of the house, cut out of the care system.”
He said the Care Bill had some “strong proposals” that could improve a social care system “on its knees”.
“But it’s becoming clear that a huge number of older and disabled people will not see any of the benefits of the new system,” he added.
Meanwhile, figures obtained under Freedom of Information by Labour show that those who pay for care have seen their charges rise by £50 a month.
The cost of meals-on-wheels have risen by a fifth while community transport prices have almost doubled.
Norman Lamb, the Care Minister, said legislation would help by forcing councils to step into people’s lives earlier.
He said: “What this bill does is very much focus on preventing ill health and preventing a deterioration of condition. And there will be a substantial shift of resources in that direction.”
He said the Government would put in place a national minimum threshold to end the “postcode lottery” in care.
But campaigners are warning that it will be set at a high level – still cutting out anyone with moderate needs.
In West Sussex, a campaign group called Don’t Cut Us Out, warned that the cut-backs were having a serious impact.
It highlighted the case of Julie-Ann Baker who was left disabled after her mother suffered German measles during pregnancy.
She wears a hearing aid in both ears and three years ago her deteriorating sight disappeared completely after she walked into a door.
She received four hours of visits each week from care workers who would bin out of date food, clean up after her guide dog in the garden, vacuum the carpet, change her bed sheets, and take her shopping.
Then suddenly they withdrew the visits – after changing the eligibility criteria.
Ms Baker said: “I just don’t understand why they’ve done it. Sometimes I sit here and cry. One minute they give you and the next they take away. It can be very lonely.”
She said she wished she could blindfold council staff so they could understand how difficult it was. She had mouldy bread in her kitchen and out of date eggs. And when she places a ready meal in the microwave she has no idea what is in it.
Margaret Guest from the Don’t Cut Us Out campaign helps Ms Baker at times. She says she sees similar cases regularly.
The campaigner used to be a manager in social care at the local council and says workers are also horrified by the cuts.
At one meeting a councillor said people had to “harden their hearts” and not become emotional.