William echoes parents' worries as he says 'children don't understand social distancing'

Rebecca Taylor
Royal Correspondent
The Cambridge children have been homeschooled since the lockdown. (Getty Images)

Prince William has shared the parental struggle of teaching his children about social distancing as he called care workers around the UK.

The Duke of Cambridge, who is father to Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis, thanked care workers for carrying on during the coronavirus pandemic as he heard about the way they had to adapt to follow government guidelines.

While speaking to a team in Belfast child psychiatrist Dr Clare McKenna told him: “The children I work with don’t understand social distancing.”

William prompted laughter by replying: “That’s all children isn’t it? I don’t think any children understand social distancing.”

William spoke to care workers in Northern Ireland. (Kensington Palace)

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His comment could be echoed by parents across the country as teachers and politicians weigh up the risks of sending children back to schools.

Earlier this month Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the National Association of Headteachers (NAHT) said: “There is a real lack of confidence among parents that it will be safe to send their children back to school.”

Another teaching union, The NASUWT, found only 5% of teachers felt it safe for more children to return to school.

Consultant psychiatrist Frances Doherty, who runs the Beechcroft Regional Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) Inpatient Service, said they had a dip in referrals, but she expected them to rise again.

“I would imagine that as we’re starting to come out of lockdown and people are starting to get back into the world again, starting to realise just what we’ve been through, I think that we will start to see our referral rate increase and the impact on services,” she said.

“What I think has been really helpful is a lot of work has been done to think about how young people can care for themselves, how parents can care for them, to help them to survive and to thrive even through the pandemic.

“But I think it will be on the other side of it we’ll really have all the challenges that you mentioned.”

Kate and William also called a care home in Wales. (Kensington Palace)

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The duke, 37, also heard about the creative ways care workers are making sure children know they still care.

Eimear Hanna said the workers had bought large teddy bears as substitutes for the youngest in their care, and stand beside them as they cuddle the toys.

He said: “Everyone needs a hug, Eimear. It’s very important .”

He continued: “It must be very difficult not being able to provide that human touch, that kind of face-to-face care.

“It’s very difficult when you’re behind a mask and goggles and aprons.”

Kate and William turned bingo callers with a care home. (Kensington Palace)

Dr McKenna said: “The staff have been very creative and taken big smiling pictures of themselves and pinned those to their front, so the child knows what they look like under their mask.”

The duke also told the team: “I’m particularly worried as to how the young people are going to cope long term, because we’re all muddling through this period at the moment and helping each other,” he said.

“But the long-term implications of school being missed, anxiety levels, family members sadly dying and the sort of general economic outlook.”

He ended the call by thanking the staff for what they were doing.

“I know it’s unprecedented and it’s quite scary and it’s daunting, but you’re all making a huge difference so please pass on to all your teams how grateful everyone is and how appreciative everyone is for everything they’re doing at the moment,” he said.

The prince called care workers in England. (Kensington Palace)

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Earlier this week, William and his wife Kate, 38, joined residents from the Shire Hall Care Home in Cardiff via video call as they played bingo in the home’s cinema.

The royals even took turns as bingo callers before speaking to some of the residents and care workers.

The duke spoke to care workers in England on 14 May, hearing about the lengths they were going to to provide care and ensure their families were protected, with some of them self-isolating from their own relatives.

Care workers told William about having to self-isolate from family to keep them safe. (Kensington Palace)

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have had to carry out much of their usual work from home during the coronavirus pandemic lockdown.

The duke has been on many video calls in recent weeks, including to charities in Scotland, where he should have been in his role as Lord High Commissioner to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland.

And the duchess teamed up with other royals to speak to nurses around the world.