The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge got to see first hand the benefits of animal assisted therapy during a visit to Wolverhampton based not for profit organisation Hugglepets in the Community.

The organisation – backed by the National Lottery Community Fund – works alongside individuals and groups to improve mental health and emotional wellbeing through animal assisted therapy, a therapeutic intervention that incorporates animals into treatment plans to complement the benefits of traditional therapy.

As part of their visit to the city to mark Mental Health Awareness Week last Thursday (13 May), The Duke and Duchess learned how Hugglepets in the Community has helped hundreds of children in the last year, despite Covid-19 restrictions and lockdowns.

Their Royal Highnesses were joined by pupils from Loxdale Primary School to take part in an animal based wellbeing therapy session designed to build confidence and improve children’s mental health.

Mike Dixon, Director at Hugglepets in the Community, said: “We were delighted to be visited by The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and show them what Hugglepets in the Community does in Wolverhampton.

“A not for profit organisation, Hugglepets was the very first of its type in the UK and we are extremely proud of the impact that it is having on the mental wellbeing of young people in the city and wider region.”

Loxdale Primary School Headteacher Tricia Scott said: “Meeting The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at Hugglepets was a fantastic opportunity for our pupils. Their Royal Highnesses are true advocates of promoting positive mental health and it was great that they got to experience the fantastic services the organisation offers.

“We have been working with Hugglepets in the Community since before the pandemic and have seen some fantastic outcomes amongst our children after taking part in animal assisted therapy sessions.”

The City of Wolverhampton Council and HeadStart Wolverhampton both made contributions to an initial crowdfunding campaign which raised £96,000 to build a Sensory Activity Centre and Community Aquarium at Hugglepets in the Community. 

Kush Patel, Children’s Innovation Lead at the City of Wolverhampton Council, said: “It was great that The Duke and Duchess got to experience the unique and fantastic animal based sessions that Hugglepets in the Community offers to children and young people in Wolverhampton and beyond.”

Established by The National Lottery Community Fund, HeadStart is designed to improve the resilience and emotional wellbeing of children and young people by giving them the skills they need to address the challenges of modern life. To find out more about HeadStart Wolverhampton, search for @HeadStartFM on Facebook and Twitter.

Mental Health Awareness Week is the UK’s national week to raise awareness of mental health, hosted annually by the Mental Health Foundation. This year’s theme was centred around nature and the important role it can play to help improve mental wellbeing, as well as its power to prevent or aid recovery from poor mental health.