The Duchess of Cambridge was given a virtual tour of Clouds House, an addiction treatment centre in Wiltshire last week, in a royal first during the coronavirus lockdown. The centre is run by Kate's patronage, Action on Addiction, and has been able to stay open during lockdown thanks to its team of dedicated staff, who have been following government guidelines to ensure safety for all.
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WATCH: Kate is given virtual tour of addiction treatment centre
During the video call, Kate was given a tour of Clouds House from her Norfolk home, Anmer Hall, by Action on Addiction's CEO Graham Beech, who explained to the Duchess that the results of a national YouGov poll that Action on Addiction have commissioned, indicates that addictive behaviours are rising as a result of the pandemic. The poll, which was released on Monday, found that as many as a quarter of UK adults may be drinking more as a result of the Covid-19 lockdown and 39 per cent of participants with a history of addiction have reported a recurrence of their addictive behaviour or have recently relapsed while in recovery.
The Duchess said: "The worrying thing is, it is all those people who aren't necessarily reaching out who are struggling, who perhaps don't feel they can reach out. Or the fact that maybe they haven't realised that addictive behaviours have sort of established, particularly if it's the first time - and it's those people who aren't necessarily being vocal about it. It's making sure that they know they can reach out and that you are here to help and support them in this very difficult time."
Kate spoke with Clouds House staff
During the video call, Kate spoke with CEO Graham Beech, clinical lead Dr Simone Yule and treatment manager Anya Sparks and asked them whether they had noticed a difference in the number of people contacting them for emergency help.
Dr Yule said: "We are seeing more alcohol issues and in the community. I think definitely we know alcohol sales have gone up exponentially, so the rise in people that are now starting to seek treatment with lockdown gradually lifting, I think that is going to have a big impact."
Mr Beech told the Duchess their website was busier than ever and they were doing as much as they could to connect people digitally and also to let people know Clouds was still open.
He added: "We have done some polling and we have discovered that people are struggling during lockdown. More people are drinking and gambling but also we are concerned about the number of people who are struggling to maintain their recovery and are getting into relapse. We are particularly concerned about families and young people and the impact that lockdown and addiction is having."
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Kate during the virtual meet and greet
The Duchess heard about how the centre has adapted its services, taking them online and reconfiguring the entire centre to allow ten residential clients to be able to isolate for two weeks. Kate, who made her first visit to the Wiltshire centre in 2012, was able to virtually wave at staff, who were socially distanced outside to greet her on the video call.
During the Zoom chat, the Duchess also spoke with Clouds House residents Claire and Chris, who are currently in the centre's aftercare programme. Chris told the royal how emerging from rehab into lockdown had been a "blessing in disguise" as it made him "feel safe again", and how he had been using Zoom to connect with the centre.
He added: "It was a gentle stepping stone back into reality. It kind of took away all of my temptations, the accessibility, the associations I had with friends. There's always the fear of missing out and that kind of got taken away in a sense, so it was really nice for me, it felt gentle."
Praising the dedicated staff, Kate replied: "It's a lifeline for many people and you know and it's great that they are able to continue the support, whether remotely or those who are actually still receiving treatment now during lockdown and providing life changing support."
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Kate speaks with Chris, Claire and Lucy
In a separate chat, the Duchess spoke to Lucy, whose mother had previously been a resident at Clouds before the family embarked on a series of courses together to help beat her addictions.
Lucy said: "We went to visit her a lot when she was in Clouds, it was such a lovely and special place, we met so many fantastic people. We felt really well supported as a family member and since she has come out of there, we have continued in a family counselling session, my brother, mother and I which we do in London. We do it every few months or whenever mum feels she needs it, or whenever we feel we need it and it’s been game changing for our family - really beneficial to be in a room and talk so openly as we have done."
Praising the work of both Clouds and her patronage, the Duchess said: "I think the holistic approach that Clouds has is extraordinary and Action on Addiction in general, because to being in the family members, for someone who is suffering to take that one individual and ask them to go through it themselves is a real challenge. But if you can pull in family members or those around them to try and help them through it is really extraordinary and actually I’ve heard in the past everyone learns a huge amount from it as well, so it's really fantastic."
Before ending the call, Kate promised staff at Clouds House she will pay a visit in person when the coronavirus outbreak is under control. The Duchess has been patron of Action of Addiction since 2012 and has also visited facilities in Essex, London and Liverpool.
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