When I saw Kensington Palace tweet about the events I immediately checked to see if photos were available yet; the first one that appeared was one of Kate picking up a water bottle as she exited the car.
This morning Kate made a private visit to the prison in Gloucestershire to learn more about what support is available to women prisoners and their families who live with complex social issues.
Kensington Palace reported: "The Duchess met with staff from Eastwood Park who explained the complex and often diverse needs of the women they work with including mental health concerns, family breakdowns, and treatment for addiction. Her Royal Highness also met with a small number of women prisoners to hear their personal stories."
A brief history of notable events and challenges the prison has faced over the years: Eastwood Park Prison originally opened as a male juvenile detention centre, and then became a young offenders institution. In March 1996 Eastwood Park was converted into a women's prison, receiving staff and prisoners brought from the old Pucklechurch Prison. In May 2002, the prison made headlines when an inspection of Eastwood Park found that inmates were at serious risk of suicide and self-harm. Referring to Eastwood as "an establishment in crisis", the inspection report noted that staff were having trouble creating decent conditions for inmates, among whom 56 women had been identified as suicide risks in a single month. In that same month, the report said 47 separate cases of self-harm had occurred. A further report in March 2004 stated that the prison was still facing "major challenges". The report also noted, however, that prisoners felt safer at Eastwood Park than in women's prisons generally.
Afterwards, the Duchess travelled to the to the Nelson's Trust Women's Centre, an organisation which provides support to vulnerable women and which works closely with Eastwood Park to provide ongoing support to women and their families after leaving prison. Below, the Duchess is greeted upon arrival.
How does the service provided by the trust work? Every woman is offered a detailed individual assessment of their needs across nine "pathways". These include accommodation; physical and mental health; drugs and alcohol; finance and benefits; family and relationships; domestic abuse; sex working; education and training; and attitudes, thinking and behaviour. Each client has their own Keyworker who works with them to develop a support plan to address their needs. This will be achieved through one-to-one sessions, group work and access to specialist services across the county. Over 500 women are supported each year across the Southwest of the UK.
Women who have availed of Nelson Trust's services shared their personal experiences with Kate.
During the meeting, Kate was clearly taken with a four-month-old boy called Gabriel, who was with his mother, Hlengiwe Sithole.
More from the Mail Online:
'She has been getting help at Nelson Trust since leaving prison in October last year. "Is he a good boy?" Kate asked Sithole, and then when his mom put a pacifier in his mouth to calm him, Kate said: "Is that better?" Kate told the women, "It's really great to have everything under one roof and have the expert advice here. It must be a great support."
Niki Gould, head of women's community services at the centre, chaperoned Kate around. "It was really important that the women have a voice and have been able to talk about their experiences to the Duchess," she said. She said some of the women had been to prison and told the Duchess their stories, including how they were separated from their children. "She was very, very friendly, very easy to talk to and very empathetic. You could tell they were all very comfortable about talking to her. You can tell she's got the understanding and the empathy. She has got very good insight into the vulnerabilities of women in the criminal justice system and she could see the journey from prison to the community. She totally gets that you need to support these women."'
Kate learned about the practical and emotional support offered for issues including mental health, addiction and abuse.
Much of the work carried out by the Trust focuses on rebuilding family relationships. Kate met with young families.
The Duchess unveiled a plaque to mark her visit.
Before departing, the Duchess was given a beautiful bouquet of flowers by four-year-old Tilly. "Which one is your favourite?" Kate asked. And when Tilly pointed out an orange carnation in the bouquet, the royal mother said: "I think George would like that too."
Chief executive of the trust John Trolan said:
'We know that she has a special interest in this area and she understands the needs of those using our services. We see her as an inspirational individual who can motivate our staff as they continue to work in this very difficult operating environment.' He says they see their role as preventing women going into prison and if they have been there, prevent them going again. 'We seek to support them so they can turn their lives around,' he said. Everybody agrees that these women should not be in prison -- they are low level offenders. The duchess's insights are impressive and her interest is sincere and it's very obvious from the other work of she does and the interest she shows on the area.'
Kensington Palace noted: "Today's engagements follow a visit to HMP Send last September, where the Duchess joined Rehabilitation of Addicted Prisoners Trust (RAPt), an addiction charity working to help prisoners addicted to drugs and alcohol. This visit continues to build on similar themes, as the Duchess seeks to broaden her understanding of problems such as addiction, poor mental health, family breakdown, and what support can be offered to vulnerable families to help break the cycles which are so often at the heart of these issues."
You may have noticed Kate was wearing a plaster on her hand. There was some media speculation it may have happened at last night's movie premiere. When Kate met Bob the cat she asked: "Is he purring or growling?"
Moving on to what Kate wore today, the Duchess repeated several pieces.
The Duchess sported her very chic Mulberry Paddington Coat. The coat "is designed in a fresh sky-blue hue for fall. Classically tailored, this slightly loose style has been cut in Italy from a luxurious wool-blend with a tactile touch of mohair - guaranteed to keep you warm without weighing you down. It's fully lined to slip on easily". It retailed for $1,580 before selling out.
Kate was first spotted wearing the coat last February when boarding a helicopter from Anmer Hall to Kensington Palace.
Kate teamed the coat with a black turtleneck sweater and her Dolce & Gabbana Boucle Wool Blend Skirt. The skirt is described as a "modern approach to a classic". It features contrast button fastenings and a yarn fringe detail peeking out from the side.
Kate wore the skirt in January when she guest edited The Huffington Post. It's a great piece and worked very well again today.
Kate wore a poppy again today.
The Duchess carried her Mulberry clutch in black suede.
And it appears she wore her black suede Stuart Weitzman Power Pump (with thanks to What Kate Wore).
The look was completed with Kate's Annoushka pearls and Kiki McDonough hoops.
You can view a video here.
When Kate visited HMP Send women's prison in Surrey last year, the visit was hailed as an unusually gritty one for the Duchess who had never stepped through the doors of a prison before. The visit was very much an extension of Kate's work with Action on Addiction and she met people availing of the RAPt 12 step, prison-based drug and alcohol programme. Kate obviously left HMP Send last year eager to learn more and today's visit took her to closed category prison HMP Eastwood Park (for women who do not require Restricted Status, but for whom escape needs to be very difficult) to learn how the prison supports women with complex needs. A visit immediately afterwards to Nelson Trust which provides support to women after they leave prison offered the perfect opportunity to learn more about the issues they face when they return to society, and seeing the women with their children put names and faces to the struggles prisoners often face once their time is served - especially highlighting the struggles mothers in particular face being separated from their children. I imagine Kate was eager to see the role addiction has played in their stories. It's certainly a meatier area for Kate, and one I'm delighted to see her exploring. I had never heard of the Nelson Trust before today and it put a spotlight on the terrific work they are doing.