Prince William has warned of the impact that lockdown and being kept away from school could be having on children's mental health.

In a video call to care providers, he said he was particularly concerned about the issue, despite families attempting to "muddle" their way through.

He also expressed fears about their anxiety levels as a result of the pandemic generally, as well as the loss of family members to the virus, and highlighted the long-term implications of the economic outlook for school leavers.

The Prince was talking to five professionals from the Belfast Health and Social Care Trust in a Zoom video call.

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William said: "I'm particularly worried as to how the young people are going to cope long term because we're all muddling through this period.

"But the long-term implications – of school being missed, anxiety levels, family members sadly dying and the sort of general economic outlook – do you think that will play heavily on your services and what they'll need?"

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Consultant psychiatrist Frances Doherty, who runs an inpatient mental health unit for teenagers, replied: 'Interestingly, some of our referral rates have gone down but I would imagine that as we're starting to come out of lockdown and people are starting to get back into the world again, [we're] starting to realise just what we've been through and we'll start to see our referral rate increase and the impact on our services.

'What I think has been really helpful is a lot of work has been done to think about how young people can care for themselves, how parents can care for them, to help them to survive and to thrive even, through the pandemic.

"But I think it's the other side of it that we'll have all the challenges that you mentioned."

William also raised the challenges posed by young children – he and Kate have three aged 6 and under.

Talking to child psychiatrist Dr Clare McKenna, he gave a knowing laugh when she said: "The children I work with don't understand social distancing."

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To laughs from the other five participants – all women – William said light-heartedly: "That's all children isn't it? I don't think any children understand social distancing."

McKenna said some of her staff had developed innovative ways to put vulnerable children at ease, for example by sticking pictures of themselves smiling on the masks or visors of their PPE.

Social worker Eimear Hanna said her staff had bought big teddy bears for the children to hug as they weren't allowed to hug carers.

William laughed: "Everyone needs a hug, it's very important Eimear."

"They do! They do, Sir," she replied.

At the end of the call, the Prince said: "I would just like to say before I go that I'm hugely grateful for all you're doing and hope enough people are saying thank you and appreciate all the hard work that not only you, but all your team are doing right now. You're all making a huge difference."

Teachers across the country have started creating virus-free environments ahead of their schools' partial reopening next month.

Charlotte Beyazian, head teacher of La Petite Ecole Bilingue in North London, spent yesterday rearranging tables to ensure pupils keep apart.

The school's teachers also covered displays in plastic and drew up seating plans to prepare for June 1.

The Government's proposed reopening of schools for all Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 classes in England has met fierce resistance from unions and councils, who claim it is still unsafe to return.

Many local authorities – including Birmingham, Bristol and Manchester – have said they will support schools that refuse to reopen next month.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said scientific evidence in favour of school reopening will be published today.