Duchess of Cambridge says pandemic has been 'tough and frightening' for families with ill children

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·Royal Correspondent
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LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 18: Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge meets with a group of parents who have helped her understand the importance of providing support for parents during the earliest years of children's lives, as she marks the launch of The Royal Foundation Centre for Early Childhood at Kensington Palace on June 18, 2021 in London, England. The Duchess of Cambridge has launched her own Centre for Early Childhood, to raise awareness of the importance of early years. (Photo by Tolga Akmen-WPA Pool/Getty Images)
The Duchess of Cambridge at Kensington Palace with a group of parents who have helped her understand the importance of providing support for mums and dads during the earliest years of children's lives. (Tolga Akmen-WPA Pool/Getty Images)

The Duchess of Cambridge has offered her sympathy to families of seriously ill children as she reflected on a difficult year during the pandemic.

Kate, 39, is the patron of East Anglia Children's Hospices (EACH). She called for the nation to thank hospices for the work they do to provide care for children at the end of their lives.

She said the pandemic has been especially frightening for parents who have ill children, noting that they had to start shielding early on.

In her message, Kate said: "The last year has been a difficult one for everyone, and especially tough and frightening for families with seriously ill children. 

"Many started shielding long before others, worrying about the pandemic and what it might mean for their child.

"The theme for this year’s Children’s Hospice Week is 'Pushed to the Limits', recognising the tremendous strain these families face, and why the care and support of their local children’s hospices is needed now more than ever.

"Children's hospices are a lifeline, and I have been privileged to see first-hand the remarkable work they do. They give families the care and time they need to make treasured lifelong memories – the chance to be parents, not carers. 

"Vitally, they are also there when it is time to say goodbye, making sure a family has privacy and dignity so they can grieve together, and are able to receive support for as long as they need it.

"I hope you will join me this Children’s Hospice Week in thanking the UK’s 54 children’s hospices and their incredible staff for the life-changing care they provide to children and families facing the unimaginable – helping them to make the most of every precious moment together."

Children's Hospice Week, which runs from 21 to 27 June, is organised by the UK's umbrella charity for palliative care, called Together for Short Lives.  

Watch: Duchesses of Cornwall and Cambridge speak to children's hospices

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Mother-of-three Kate regularly lends her support to the hospices, and one of her first in-person engagements last summer when restrictions eased was helping create a garden at one near her Norfolk home of Anmer Hall.

Last year, she also teamed up with fellow future queen Camilla, the Duchess of Cornwall, to mark Children's Hospice Week with people they support.

Andy Fletcher, chief executive for Together for Short Lives, said: "More than ever, families need their children’s hospice to provide the care and time they need make the most of every moment, whether that’s for years, months or only days. 

"The duchess’s support for Children’s Hospice Week over many years has helped to raise awareness of the needs of seriously children and to show the life-changing care children’s hospice and palliative care services provide to families throughout their child’s life, and vitally at the end of their life, in bereavement and beyond."

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 18: (EMBARGOED FOR PUBLICATION IN UK NEWSPAPERS UNTIL 24 HOURS AFTER CREATE DATE AND TIME) Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge attends the launch of The Royal Foundation Centre for Early Childhood at Kensington Palace on June 18, 2021 in London, England. The Duchess of Cambridge has launched her own Centre for Early Childhood, to raise awareness of the importance of early years. (Photo by Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)
The Duchess of Cambridge has launched her own Centre for Early Childhood to raise awareness of the importance of early years. (Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)

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Phil Gormley, chief executive of EACH, thanked the duchess for her support and added: "The pandemic has created some significant challenges, including maintaining our voluntary income, but these aren’t insurmountable and we’re genuinely confident of being able to innovate, expand and develop our service in future."

Kate's message comes on her husband's 39th birthday, and shortly after she launched her landmark royal project the Centre for Early Childhood.

Employing about half a dozen people and based at Kensington Palace, the centre will promote research to raise awareness of the significance of the first five years of a child's life and how it shapes their adulthood.

It's the culmination of 10 years of work for the duchess, whose interest came from meeting people dealing with mental health issues and addictions in their adult life and who traced problems back to the early years.

Watch: Duchess of Cambridge: Time for action on early childhood development is now

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