As politicians shrink the state, Rose Fernandes's life choices dwindle. Her day is sandwiched between caring for her autistic 25-year-old daughter Crystal and her 83-year-old mother, Maria, who suffers from dementia. But since 2010, she has been caught in a whirlwind of cuts, reducing her life to a series of arguments – in and out of lawyers' offices – to preserve her way of life.
It began two years ago when her local council in Brent, north-west London, said it wanted to reduce the number of hours it would pay a carer to look after her daughter from nine hours a day to just four hours a week. But Fernandes says the day-to-day care for Crystal is constant – she needs to be washed, dressed, fed, taken to the toilet and watched all the time because she is not aware of everyday dangers.
Then her local authority told her it wanted to review her "respite care" package, worth £5,000 a year and designed to give her a break. Last year the council made noises about her mother's care. "She gets carers five times a day. It might sound a lot but my mum cannot eat solid food. She has to be fed with a syringe. She's helpless."