Children as young as five are among a suspected 12,000 unpaid carers in Hartlepool working without getting recognition.
The youngsters are looking after sick parents - or brothers and sisters in wheelchairs - to give a helping hand to their mums and dads.
They endure bullying because other children jeer them when they can’t go to after-school clubs because of their duties at home.
Some are ridiculed because they have a relative in a wheelchair.
They are doing it day in day out without getting any support.
Experts believe they are just the tip of the iceberg ... there could be as many as 12,000 people in the town who are doing work which is classed as caring.
It might be something like helping someone to go shopping or go to the doctors. It might be more extreme such as personal care. The person sees themselves as mam, dad, sibling, wife or husband but not as a carer.Christine Fewster
Only around a tenth of them are getting the support they so richly deserve.
But there is a voice in the wilderness. Christine Fewster today urged the thousands to come forward because there is help available for them and they should not have to suffer in silence.
Christine is chief executive of Hartlepool Carers which supports 800 adults and 80 children - up to now.
She’s hoping an appeal through the Hartlepool Mail will encourage people to come forward.
“We can provide people with a key worker to look after your caring role, explain how we can help and signpost you to other organisations,” said Christine.
“We can train and educate, provide social opportunities, give peer-to-peer support, help with food safety and with training in areas such as dementia and stroke.” she added.
Yet only 10% of the eligible people are coming forward for help from Hartlepool Carers and Christine thinks that’s down to some people not even realising that the work they are doing is caring.
It might be something as simple as helping someone to go shopping or go to the doctors.
Christine said: “It might be more extreme such as providing personal care. The person sees themselves as mam, dad, sibling, wife or husband but not as a carer.
“We want to break those barriers down because people are not understanding that they are a carer.
“There is lots of support available for them.”
As well as Hartlepool Carers for the older people, the Hartlepool Young Carers has two sections - one for 5 to 11 year olds and the other for 11 to 18 year olds.
“Some of your younger members are supporting siblings with epilepsy,” said Christine. “They help their mams and dads with things like washing.
“But for a lot of them, there is an emotional impact. They might be missing out on school and they are more likely to be bullied.”
Research has shown that 40% of young carers in Hartlepool are more likely to take time off school.
But at the other end of the spectrum, there is just as much need for support.
People aged 60 to 80 are also doing caring roles in town by helping family members, such as someone with dementia.
But they too are not getting the support they deserve.
Hartlepool Carers, though, is there for them and can be found at 19A Lowthian Road in Hartlepool.
It is open 8am to 5pm from Monday to Friday to drop in or you can call (01429) 283095.
Alternatively, the Facebook page is there for people to leave messages any time of day and night.