Duchess of Cambridge praises pioneering children's mental health charity at gala dinner

Rebecca Taylor
Royal Correspondent
Kate speaks to some of the children at the gala dinner. (Getty Images)

The Duchess of Cambridge has praised founders of a children’s mental health charity for being pioneers as she celebrated its 25th anniversary.

Kate is a patron of Place2be, a charity which provides emotional support to children and believes no child should face mental health difficulties alone.

The duchess marked the charity’s 25th anniversary with a dinner at Buckingham Palace, held just hours after the royals attended the Commonwealth Day service.

Kate rewore a royal blue Jenny Packham dress she took with her on tour in India in 2016, and a matching clutch bag, for the event.

She was greeted by teachers and children from Cranbrook School, the New North Academy and Salusbury Primary School.

She met members of two choirs ahead of their performance.

Kate with two school choirs at the gala dinner. (Getty Images)

She also wished two of the children a happy birthday, before revealing the happy birthday song is Prince Louis’ favourite.

Kate said he was “tucked up in bed”.

In a speech, the duchess praised the work the charity did both with adults and children, calling it the “pioneers of school-based mental health support since 1994” and talked of her wish that every school could have Place2be.

She said: “Place2Be was one of the first charities I became Patron of. I knew it was special then, but having spent many years since, learning about the importance of childhood development, I see even more the value in the work that you do and I am hugely grateful for all that you have taught me over the past seven years.

“You taught me, right from the start, that the children in your schools are only as happy and emotionally strong as the adults in their care. That is why you take such great pride in the work you do with your teachers and your parents.”

The duchess has a matching handbag for her outfit. (Getty Images)
The duchess hosted the dinner as a solo engagement. (Getty Images)

She added: “You taught me the importance of creating safe and nurturing environments within schools, embracing a holistic view of emotional well-being which permeates through the whole school system.

“You also taught me that it's the simplest things that make a difference to children. It’s the quality time that is spent with them. It’s the time you take to listen to them. It is trusting relationships that have the most profound impact on the emotional and mental wellbeing of a child.”

Kate also singled out the charity’s founder to pay special tribute to, thanking Dame Benny Refson for her “kindness and wisdom” “from the bottom of my heart”.

The choirs performing their original song. (Getty Images)

Place2be tweeted to say that two of the schools had teamed up with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra to “write and compose an original song about self-esteem, creativity and their wellbeing”.

After the performance, the duchess said: “You’ve written it especially for tonight? Thank you so much.

“What a treat for me.”

The duchess has worked across mental health and Early Years projects for several years and became a patron of Place2be in 2013.

Founded in 1994 by Dame Benny Refson, it has worked with more than 250,0000 children and families over the past 25 years.

It works in 639 schools across the UK.

Read more: Prince Harry was 'tense' in final public engagement, says body language expert

The duchess made a speech at the gala. (Getty Images)

Kate recently launched a nationwide survey through Ipsos Mori called 5 Big Questions on the Under Fives, which she said she hoped would spark a big conversation about the importance of a good start in life.

She and her husband, Prince William, have also previously worked on mental health projects together, including Heads Together.

Kate opened up about mum guilt and trying hypno-birthing in a podcast with Giovanna Fletcher earlier this year.

She also admitted she had been terrified when she had to step out onto the steps of the Lindo Wing with Prince George when he was just hours old.

Read more: The 360: Has it been a good week for the royals?

As the duchess got back to work on Monday evening, her brother-in-law prepared to go back to Canada with his wife, to start their new life.

Harry and Meghan marked their final engagement as senior royals at the Commonwealth Day service, and while there was not much time for chatting, Harry and Kate did seem to exchange a warm smile.