The rules governing which elderly and disabled people in England are entitled to social care have been criticised.
The CSCI says there are inconsistencies in social care
A Commission for Social Care Inspection (CSCI) report says there are inconsistencies in how councils decide who gets help and how much they get.
Social care minister Ivan Lewis has ordered a fundamental review of the rules on eligibility.
The BBC's Kim Catcheside said thousands of people who would have got support a few years ago are no longer eligible.
The CSCI has been investigating the widening gap in social care, and the overwhelming majority of councils are restricting their services to the most needy, our correspondent added.
The CSCI's report is due to be released later.
Local authorities argue cuts have been forced upon them by tight budgets and the increasing demands of an aging population.
But, according to Mr Lewis, the CSCI has uncovered enormous variations in the way councils interpret the rules.
More require care
This means people with similar needs in different parts of the country - and in some cases living in the same local authority - are getting widely different levels of care.
The deputy head of the Local Government Association, John Ransford, told BBC: "A rising number of older people in society, people with learning disabilities, people with physical disabilities are requiring more and more care.
"We want them to have that care in their home, in their local communities. That's usually their wish, but it is expensive and we've got to balance resources with needs."
He told Radio 4's Today programme: "The Local Government Association has been saying very strongly that in a very tight financial settlement, we have to use those resources as effectively as possible and if you want more services, we need more resources."