Harry in WellChild video call with seriously ill children and their families

The Duke of Sussex has video-called families caring for seriously ill children at home to learn how they are coping during the coronavirus pandemic.

Harry, in his role as patron of WellChild, heard about the challenges of social isolation and the fears of families reliant on carers helping with round-the-clock medical care.

The charity said the duke, who has quit as a working royal and is living in the US, also heard how many, who have not been included on vulnerable lists, were struggling to access support and basic supplies.

Harry called on the Government to do more to help the families – a stance that would have been difficult as a working HRH – during the 30-minute chat.

The duke, whose own son Archie Mountbatten-Windsor turns one in a few weeks’ time, asked to see the children and sent a message of encouragement to the families.

“Full respect to every single one of you. This is hard on everyone, but it is especially hard on you. I know that WellChild are doing everything they can to support you,” the duke said.

He added: “Hopefully, through this video and other things we can make it more clear and obvious to Government and everybody else that you guys are in the ‘vulnerable’ bracket and WellChild needs more help.

“It is really nice to see you all smiling and happy. Keep going, keep the morale up, keep yourselves busy, keep being creative, dare yourself to try new hobbies and I hope to see you all again very, very soon.”

Harry at the annual WellChild Awards
Harry at the annual WellChild Awards

The Queen’s grandson also spoke about how he coping with lockdown, saying: “Not too bad. I think it’s certainly strange times.

“Everyone is experiencing the same thing in a very unique way. The longer this goes on for I imagine the harder it is for each and every one of you.”

Among those on the call were Craig Hatch from Cockermouth in Cumbria who cares for his 21-year-old son Fraser who has cerebral palsy, epilepsy, neuro-muscular scoliosis, osteoporosis, chronic lung disorder and type 1 diabetes.

Mr Hatch said: “It’s scary. We are frightened because we know that if the virus gets in our house and if Fraser contracts the virus, the implications are quite severe.”

Craig and Fraser Hatch
Craig and Fraser Hatch

WellChild nurse Rachel Gregory, who supports children and young people who require long term ventilation across Nottinghamshire, Lincolnshire and Derbyshire, highlighted the worries that families have about letting external carers into their home.

Ms Gregory said: “These children need round-the-clock care, 24 hours a day. You can’t expect parents to do that on their own.

“They have to open their doors at this vulnerable time to external carers, which is a huge concern for them.”

WellChild is the national charity for sick children.