Frail elderly and disabled people are being charged more for council help to get washed, dressed and fed at home, according to a survey.
The number of elderly people having their home care services fully paid for by their local authority has fallen by 11% over the past two years in spite of an ageing population, statistics obtained by the Labour Party have shown.
The figures showed the average charge for an hour of home care increased by 10% between 2009/10 and 2012/13 from £12.29 to £13.61. There were also wide variations in the cost of care, ranging from free home care in the east London borough of Tower Hamlets to £21.50 an hour in Brighton and Hove.
The Labour Party said 121 out of 153 councils in England - 79% - responded to a freedom of information request on home care charges.
The increase in home care charges means the average annual cost for an older or disabled person who pays for 10 hours of home care a week has increased to £7,077 a year in 2012/13 - up more than £680 since 2009/10, according to the Labour Party.
Shadow care minister Liz Kendall said: "These increases in home care charges are a stealth tax on the most vulnerable people in society. Fewer older people are getting their care for free, and more older and disabled people are being forced to pay more for vital services that help them get up, washed, dressed and fed. These services are a lifeline for older and disabled people and crucial to help them stay living independently in their own homes."
Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, she called on the Government to take "urgent action".
"Older people are struggling to get the care they need now, they are being charged more now, they should be taking action now," she said. She added that Labour was "absolutely committed" to finding a cross-party agreement on the issue.
A spokeswoman for the Alzheimer's Society said many people with dementia and their carers were already struggling to pay for home care and some might not be able to afford the increased prices.
She said: "The extortionate costs in some parts of the country don't even guarantee good quality care. This is disgraceful. Home care services are vital in helping to maintain quality of life for people living with dementia."