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Duchess of Cambridge makes surprise appearance at conference hosted by the Anna Freud National Centre

The Duchess of Cambridge made a surprise appearance at the “Improving young people’s mental resilience and wellbeing: Learning from HeadStart” conference today in London at the Amnesty International UK Human Rights Action Centre. The conference was hosted by the Duchess’s patronage, The Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families (AFNCCF).

Plans for Her Royal Highness’s appearance had been in the works for a while, but Kensington Palace did not want to announce the low key engagement ahead of time. A source explained to Royal Central that Catherine ” is really keen to learn” and added that, for that reason, they chose to keep it secret until after she had left the conference. The Duchess wanted to learn without the glare of the media spotlight and wanted the focus to be on the conference itself.

Details of the conference have been online for a while, and no doubt, another reason for secrecy was security.

She arrived at 10:30 and was escorted in by an organiser of the event. She had the opportunity to speak to ambassadors of the programme who told Her Royal Highness about their role in HeadStart. The Duchess is expected to remain at the conference until the later afternoon.

On Twitter, AFNCCF said, “We are delighted to welcome our Patron HRH the Duchess of Cambridge to the Conference. HRH is a committed champion of children’s mental health and wellbeing and it is fantastic to have her here!”

“Improving young people’s mental resilience and wellbeing: Learning from HeadStart” was focused on the HeadStart programme funded by the Big Lottery and was the first in a series in collaboration between the AFNCCF and the Big Lottery. HeadStart, five-year National Lottery funded programme, is a massive, multimillion pound mental health research and intervention scheme. AFNCCF has said on their website that it was “set up by the Big Lottery Fund to give young people aged 10- to 16-years-old the tools they need to overcome life’s challenges and prevent serious mental-health issues from developing. Six local authority led HeadStart partnerships based in Blackpool, Cornwall, Hull, Kent, Newham and Wolverhampton are designing new approaches to providing support when and where it is needed, focusing on developing young people’s emotional resilience from an early age.”

The AFNCCF was the lead for evaluating and sharing knowledge at the conference which began at 9:30 this morning. Speakers during the event today included Dr Jessica Deighton (Associate Professor in Child Mental Health and Wellbeing, UCL & AFNCCF), Professor Michael Ungar (Director, Resilience Research Centre, Dalhousie University), Professor Miranda Wolpert (Director of Innovation, Evaluation and Dissemination, AFNCCF) and Dawn Austwick (CEO, Big Lottery Fund).

The conference could be followed on social media through the hashtag #HeadStartLearning. It could also be followed by the Twitter accounts of AFNCCF (@AFNCCF), Big Lottery Fund (@BigLotteryFund) and the EBP Unit (@EBPUnit).

The Duchess became the patron of AFNCCF in February 2016. At the time, Kensington Palace said that the “patronage reflects Her Royal Highness’s continued personal interest in children’s mental health and emotional wellbeing.”

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