Kate Middleton says children’s hospices are needed now more than ever (Image: PA)

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The Duchess of Cambridge has thanked children's hospices in the UK for the "remarkable" and "life-changing" work they do.

Kate, patron of East Anglia's Children's Hospices (Each), said the last year has been particularly difficult for families with seriously ill children and said children's hospices are "a lifeline".

In a message to mark Children's Hospice Week from June 21 to June 27, the duchess said the care and support of children's hospices "is needed now more than ever".

The theme of the national awareness week, organised by the UK's umbrella charity for children's palliative care, Together for Short Lives, is "Pushed to the Limits", reflecting how families who use children's hospice services have been pushed to theirs this last year.

Kate has spoken out this Children's Hospice Week
(Image: PA)

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The duchess 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.

Many people with seriously ill children were worried about what the pandemic meant for their child
(Image: PA)

"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."

The Duchess recognised that the last year has been hard on everyone, but particularly families with very unwell children
(Image: PA)

Over the last year, Each fundraising events have been cancelled and the ability of community and corporate supporters to raise money has been severely impacted.

Its 43 shops, which raise vital income, also had to close for 30 weeks.

Phil Gormley, Each chief executive, said: "I am extremely grateful to the duchess for her active support and advocacy, which is deeply appreciated and valued by both our families and staff.

"We are currently doing everything we can to ensure delivery of our frontline service.

"The care we deliver is critically important to some of the most vulnerable children in society and is dependent on continued support from the people of East Anglia.

"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."