The Princess of Wales had a delightful afternoon when she participated in a sensory play session with children who have special educational needs and disabilities in Sittingbourne, Kent, last Wednesday. Kate, who is 41 years old, drew attention to the efforts of portage practitioners during her visit. Portage practitioners provide a home-visiting educational service for preschool children and their families.
During the session, The Princess actively engaged with the children, seen in photos playing with them by tickling their tummies and tossing tinsel and shredded paper around. These heartwarming images have sparked a wave of comments on the Prince and Princess of Wales's social media accounts.
One individual wrote, “It's wonderful to see such an important issue receiving attention. Well done!!!” Another comment from an early years teacher expressed gratitude, saying, “I can't thank Your Royal Highness enough for all you're doing for our little ones!!” A third person thanked The Princess for her efforts in spotlighting and supporting this crucial work with early years.
Naomi Nice, a portage practitioner present during Kate's engagement, emphasized the crucial importance of raising awareness about portage services. She explained that it is essential because the general public may not be familiar with these services unless they have a personal connection to someone who has used them. Naomi went on to mention that parents who have benefited from Portage often describe it as a lifeline. Portage practitioners are involved from the early stages and often establish a close, personal connection with the families they assist. They become a vital point of contact for these families. Therefore, Naomi stressed the necessity of increasing awareness about their work throughout the country, especially at a time when services are facing budget cuts. She highlighted that when parents view portage practitioners as their lifeline, it is crucial to ensure that this lifeline remains intact.
On the other hand, Janet Rickman, who serves as the Chair of the National Portage Association, shared with HELLO! that The Princess expressed a keen interest in gaining a deeper understanding of the organization and funding of portage services. She inquired whether there was adequate funding available for these services.
It was evident to Janet that The Princess recognized the significant impact that portage has on children, particularly during their initial five years of development. She emphasized that the first five years are of paramount importance for any child, but for those with additional needs and their families, this period becomes even more critical.
Janet also stated, “We have high expectations that [Kate's visit] will bring about significant positive changes. We sincerely anticipate that it will effectively demonstrate our work and the profound influence that British practitioners have on the lives of children and their families.”
Kate's visit to the Kent center marked the beginning of a series of Shaping Us engagements that will continue until Christmas. These engagements primarily center on children and families.