The Children's Commissioner for England has called on the government to offer more support to youngsters growing up with alcoholic parents before more "lose their childhood".

Maggie Atkinson said a large number of the estimated 2.5 million children living with a problematic drinker received "little support from social services".

Though the government has pledged to reform its policies to help identify more problem drinkers earlier, the Commissioner called on health chiefs to devote as much attention to alcohol abuse among parents as to other forms of drug misuse.

Ms Atkinson said: "At a time of great changes in the health service, to developments in programmes to address 'troubled families', of changes to statutory guidance on inter-agency working and of pressure on all services due to funding cuts, it is essential to highlight the significance of this problem to ensure that services are adequately targeted at this high level of hidden harm."

"Over the last 10 to 15 years there have been improvements in policy in terms of recognising and attempting to respond to children affected by parental substance misuse in the UK. Despite this, there remain limitations to the progress made in respect of alcohol misuse."

The Community Research Company produced the report Silent Voices on behalf of the Office of the Children's Commissioner and found 79,000 babies aged under one in England are living with a parent who is classified as a problematic drinker, which they extrapolated to 93,500 babies in the UK.

Research also suggested 26,000 babies in England are living with a parent who is a "dependent drinker", which is equivalent to 31,000 across the UK.

A government spokesman said that they will "cut unnecessary bureaucracy so professionals can identify and tackle problems as early as possible" as well as working with the drinks industry to reduce the UK's alcohol intake by one billion units in the next three years.

Posted 11/09/2012 by richard.hook@pavpub.com