Tens of thousands of children are struggling alone to care for parents who are sick, disabled or addicted, a devastating Ofsted report reveals today.
A 'hidden' army of youngsters have become 'their parents' parent' and single-handedly wash, dress and feed their mothers and fathers.
Two in three young carers interviewed by Ofsted inspectors felt they were not getting enough help from the state to cope with their responsibilities.
Thousands more were not getting any because councils were unaware of them.
Youngsters caring for parents with mental health problems, drug addiction or alcoholism were most likely to fall under authorities' radar, the report said.
Census data indicates at least 175,000 youngsters shoulder the burden of looking after parents or relatives who are ill or otherwise incapacitated, it added.
Home Office figures suggest there are up to 350,000 children of problem drug users in the UK. But many councils have not identified enough of them.
The report, which surveyed eight local authorities and 50 young carers, paints a picture of childhoods disrupted by responsibilities which many take on willingly, if not proudly.
While young carers emphasise the benefits of their experience, they talk of their lives being 'hard' and 'stressful'.
Caring tasks included administering medication and first aid and dealing with family finances, the report said.