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Kate's St George's Day visit to Manchester

Duchess of Cambridge arrives in Wythenshawe Photo: ITV Granada Reports

The Duchess of Cambridge has been greeted by a wave of St George's Day flags from cheering schoolchildren as she arrived to launch a counselling programme in Greater Manchester.

Kate visited The Willows Primary School in Wythenshawe to launch a project to reduce the impact of drug and alcohol addiction on children and their families.

After meeting a line-up of dignitaries outside the school, she was presented with a hamper of special treats for her dog Lupo.

It was a gift from "school dog" Henry, headteacher Anne Whitehead's Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.

Pupil Dominic Hehir, 10, presented the hamper while Chloe Pomfret, 10, handed over a posy of red roses.

Bathed in sunshine and wearing an Erdem floral dress, a beaming Kate drew a rapturous response from the children.

Kate picked out eight-year-old Kara O'Shea from the crowd for a brief conversation.

Kara said: "She asked my name and how happy I was. I felt happy."

The school counselling initiative is a partnership between charities Place2Be and Action on Addiction with funding from Comic Relief and the Royal Foundation whose patrons are the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry.

Kate met staff and volunteers from youth mental health services charity Place2Be, and children who have benefited from its work.

Action on Addiction will train, supervise and support Place2Be counsellors to deliver the programme in school settings across England.

Research suggests that more than a million children in the UK are living in homes where parental drug and alcohol use has a detrimental impact on their wellbeing and education.

Six months' pregnant Kate's bump was visible in a patterned blue silk floral dress by Sophia Visconti, which costs #1,065, which she complemented with blue suede shoes.

In a speech in the school hall, Kate, who is patron of Action on Addiction and Place2Be told an audience: "Addiction is a hugely complex and destructive disease and its impact can be simply devastating. All too often, lives and families can be shattered by it.

"Through my Patronage of Action on Addiction, I feel fortunate to have met a wide range of inspirational people who have overcome addiction. It is so encouraging to see that with the right help - like that of Action on Addiction - it can be conquered.

"But those who are addicted are not the only victims. I have been struck by the profound and deeply damaging impact it has on the children of affected parents.

"Research has shown that children of those who are addicted are seven times more likely to have addiction problems themselves. They are also brought up surrounded by fear, instability and chaos.

"Last year, I asked The Royal Foundation, which I share with William and Harry, to see what could be done to help these children.

"In partnership with Comic Relief, our foundation commissioned a piece of research to explore this issue. Today, it gives me an enormous feeling of pride and excitement to launch a programme that will bring this research to life.

"Place 2 Be delivers exceptional specialist counselling services in schools. Action on Addiction's MPACT (Moving Parents and Children Together) programme delivers life changing and expert support to families affected by addiction.

"The Royal Foundation has simply brought these two outstanding charities together to deliver a programme that will ensure that many children living with addicted parents will be identified, supported and guided to look towards a positive and hopefully, addiction free future.

"I would like to thank The Royal Foundation for all that they have done to make this happen. Thank you also to Comic Relief, Place 2 Be and Action on Addiction for working so brilliantly with them.

"The cycle of addiction needs to be broken. My hope is that through this specialist and targeted delivery of care, these children will have the best possible start in life - the one that they deserve."

The counselling programme is being piloted in the Wythenshawe area and also in Tower Hamlets, London, Harlow and Northumberland for the next two years before possibly being mapped out across the country.

Also supporting the initiative was Comic Relief Ambassador John Bishop.

Following Kate's speech, the Liverpudlian comedian quipped he know it was a Comic Relief day "because they brought me here the day after Man United won the league".

He said: "Why don't you come to Manchester, they said. It's OK, we have booked the Duchess as the warm-up act."

He said it was "most significant" that the Royal Foundation had targeted addiction as an area to support and confront the taboo on the subject.

"I think it says a lot about the new generation of the royals that they are prepared to do that," he said, "because it is something that people forget about addiction. It's not a choice. People don't choose to be an addict and their children don't choose to be children of addicts.

"So what we can do by putting in programmes like this is change the cycle, to get people to feel that the stigma is not because it's their fault.

"What they need to do is get access to support and help them change it.

"Because if we change their lives, as a result it will change all our lives."

Following a short reception, Kate went to the school's nursery where she was presented with a baby gift of a willow tree and a card entitled What Does A Princess Do that younger pupils had made especially for her visit.

Greeting her were four-year-olds Jade Percival-Smith and Jayden Dineen.

Kate told Jade: "I like your pigtails."

Stroking them, she added: "How cool they are."

She was then presented with a shovel to plant a willow tree in return for the school.

Standing beside her, Bishop said: "Is that the newest shovel you have ever seen?"

Smiling, the Duchess replied: "It's very shiny."

As cameras zoomed in on Kate about to plant the tree, Bishop stepped in and said to laughter: "There is a pregnant woman digging...how lazy do you want me to look?"

He then motioned her to hand over the shovel and he did the ceremonial honours himself.

Headteacher Miss Whitehead later thanked Kate for the visit before the royal left to catch a waiting train