Case studies: Life in the system

Image caption Ministers want to reform social care

Many believe social care is in crisis. Councils are struggling to keep pace with rising demand and the squeeze on their funds.

But for more than 1m elderly people and 500,000 younger people with disabilities council-funded care provides a lifeline.

What is it like for those who use the system?

The client's story

David, 76, lives in sheltered accommodation. He has severe mobility problems and relies on carers four times a day.

But he says he is finding it harder and harder to get the help he needs.

"My condition means that I have great difficulty moving around. I can only manage a few steps with a walking frame. And it is hard for me to do even the simplest of tasks like picking things up or opening an envelope," David says.

"I rely on carers to help me with my personal care - morning, noon, afternoon and night-time. My local authority has already had to pare down my home care service as much as it can.

"For instance, the carers are already hard pushed to get me out of bed, washed, toileted, dressed and breakfasted, with the bed made, in the allotted 45 minutes time.

"It's a tough job for the carers because my mobility is so restricted."

The carer's story

Sheila is 75 and in recent years has found herself caring for her husband, Tom, and her son, Craig.

Tom has had Parkinson's disease for the past five years and needs daily support, while Craig, 37, has Down's syndrome.

He works, but still needs his mother's help with everyday activities, like washing and dressing. She has tried respite care, but was not happy with the service.

The demands on her time are compounded by the regular visits she makes to see her mother and sister, who are in care homes

"Caring has got a lot harder as I've got older. I can't cope as well as I used to.

"My health is generally good but I get tired quicker. I get aches and pains - I suffer from arthritis."

The daughter's story

Marian's late father had a stroke at the age of 67 and other severe health needs.

He was looked after by Marian's stepmother, Pearl, until his health deteriorated so much that he went into a care home.

Marian said: "When dad's condition deteriorated, he was moved to a nursing home. Sometimes he was well looked after, he was changed regularly and turned in his bed to avoid bedsores.

"But I found that at weekends he would not be dressed and got out of bed as that was when they have staff shortages.

"His room often smelt of urine. It was very strong and took your breath away. I could not sit next to him.

"Dad was always a very clean man and I just hope that he did not know what was happening to him."