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Kate displays 'dreadful' pool skills during visit to child mental health unit

The Duchess of Cambridge showed off her "dreadful" pool-playing skills during a light-hearted moment after a morning talking to children and young people with complex mental health needs

Kate was welcomed to MIST in Torfaen, South Wales, a child and adolescent mental health project, by service user 15-year-old Craig Davies, who also became her team-mate in the impromptu game of pool.

Unfortunately for Craig, who was playing with the Duchess against fellow service user Connor Goodacre, also 15, she missed her shot.

Craig said he was initially nervous about meeting Kate but lost his nerves, especially after chatting with her about Prince George and Princess Charlotte.

He said they also discussed their pets including Kate's dog Lupo and hamster Marvin and his Jack Russell dog Wilf.

He said: "She was talking about how MIST helps us and stuff with life and school. She was really interested in what we were talking about."

Asked what he thought of Kate's pool skills he pulled a face and said: "She was dreadful."

MIST has been running for 12 years, working with young people and their carers or birth families to address complex mental health needs.

The engagement on Wednesday was her first with Action for Children since becoming the charity's patron in December, following on from the Queen.

The Duchess, who wore a burgundy suit by French brand Paule Ka for the visit, spent time with the team behind MIST, birth parents and foster carers, and partners of the service including representatives from the local council and health board.

She sat in on a private session with some of the youngsters before being given posies of flowers by Ypapanti Galimatakis-Rees, eight, and Chloe Bartlett, 10, who chatted to the Duchess about their birthdays.

Kate told the girls that George's birthday is in July and Ypapanti said she would be nine in the same month.

Kate said: "Both George and Charlotte would have loved to have met you." She then gave them a hug before leaving.

Chloe said she had always wanted to meet a member of the royal family and had managed to get "five hugs" from Kate.

The Duchess spent time talking to birth parents and therapeutic foster carers to find out about their experiences of working with MIST.

Chris Simmonds, 41, from Blaenavon, Monmouthshire, whose son uses the service, said the structure provided by the project was important for helping children with their difficulties.

He said to her: "It is amazing that people like yourself can put your weight behind organisations like this."

Kate shrugged off the praise and said: "It is an area that I am so passionate about, particularly the development and early intervention of children and supporting the family structures."

Afterwards Mr Simmonds said: "I think she was absolutely lovely and she showed a genuine interest in what was going on here.

"It did not seem like it was just something she had to do which is very encouraging."

Foster carer Jeanette Gillies, 48, talked to the Duchess about the therapeutic tools they were able to learn at MIST and how amazing they were

She then joked with the Duchess: "If you need any, Kate."

Ms Gillies said afterwards of Kate's reaction: "She laughed. She was very gracious.

"Unfortunately I called her by her first name and it is lovely that she responded so well to that."

Action for Children, which cares for disadvantaged children from across the UK, helps all types of families, supporting children and carers through fostering and adoption and intervening early to stop neglect and abuse.

It also aims to make life better for children with disabilities.

In total, 7,000 staff and volunteers operate more than 600 services, improving the lives of 390,000 children, teenagers, parents and carers each year.

The visit to MIST was the first of two engagements in Wales on Wednesday and she will later spend time with the Caerphilly Family Intervention Team (FIT) to learn about their work with children with emotional and behavioural difficulties, problems with family relationships and those who have or who are likely to self harm.

Together the two successful projects helped 13,000 children and young people last year.

Kate previously visited Action for Children programmes at Cape Hill Children's Centre in Smethwick in 2015.

A spokesman for Kensington Palace said Kate was "incredibly proud" to follow the Queen as patron of Action for Children.

He said: "The Duchess firmly believes that every child who needs it should be given the best support at the earliest opportunity, and is pleased to support their important work.

"She is looking forward to getting to know the people that make Action for Children such a success and meeting the young people they work with."

Kate braved wind and rain to speak to families gathered outside the Caerphilly Family Intervention Team (FIT) following her visit.

She was handed tulips by sisters Freya-Lily Turner, two, and five-year-old Gwen Turner, who had travelled from Ebbw Vale to meet her.

Their grandmother, Carole Turner, 68, said: "She is just amazing. They gave her tulips.

"It was so nice to see her. I didn't think she would come over to us in this weather, I thought she would jump straight in the car.

"She was so lovely."

During her visit to FIT in Caerphilly, Kate spoke with staff at the centre with Sir Tony Hawkhead, chief executive of Action for Children.

She met with families who use the centre, including grandmother Christine Jones, 47, and her grandchildren Emily Davies, nine, and Alfie Thomas, seven.

Mrs Jones told Kate how FIT had helped her family, including her son Gareth who had been bullied at school.

"It is seeing you as families, not as individuals," Kate told her.

"It is seeing everybody at once. I am so pleased to meet everyone here and it is so brave for all of you to be sharing your stories."

Kate spoke to Emily and Alfie about their time at the centre and asked what they enjoyed doing with their grandmother.

After hearing they had been to see Moana at the cinema, she replied: "I haven't seen it. You lucky things.

"It is a real treat to go to the cinema, isn't it?"

Alfie told Kate he played I Spy and she said: "I Spy? That's a really good game. I am sitting next to two I Spy Champions? Uh oh."

Kate also sat with a psychotherapist and watched through a two-way mirror as a family had a therapy session in an adjoining room.

She was presented with posies by five-year-old Casey Johnson and her sister Emily Johnson, seven, before posing for a picture with staff and children.

"Very well-behaved children," she said. "I am very impressed."

Speaking after her visit, Mrs Jones said it had been "amazing" for Kate to visit the centre.

"They need all the help they can get at the moment," she said.

"They do wonders for my family and I know they can do wonders for other families as well.

"I was so nervous, I was shaking, but she was worth it. She was genuinely interested.

"It was brilliant to see her with my grandchildren, to see her interact with them was really good."

David Richardson, family support practitioner at FIT, said of the Duchess: "She was obviously genuinely interested in our work.

"It was good to be able to share it with her."

Helen O'Shea, a consultant clinical psychiatrist seconded to FIT, added: "I thought she asked really relevant questions.

"It was lovely to hear her asking about children and families."

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