The Duchess of Cambridge has heard the stories of mothers caught up in the Grenfell Tower blaze when she visited a centre supporting the local community.

Kate had a private informal meeting with a group of young women who have been helped by the Rugby Portobello Trust at its community centre in North Kensington.

She even played Father Christmas, helping to hand out presents to children whose parents attend the Magic Mums group, many of whom were affected by the Grenfell inferno which claimed 71 lives, including that of a stillborn baby, and left hundreds homeless.

The trust has been a key institution for survivors of the blaze, helping to distribute much-needed donated funds to families who lost everything in the fire.

The duchess, who wore a coat by Seraphine, sympathised with the plight of the community and praised the work of the trust, telling a group of youngsters in a music therapy workshop: “It’s amazing for all of you to have this support, particularly at such a difficult, such a tragic time.”

The Duchess met the young mothers when she first arrived at the centre, based near Grenfell Tower which still casts a shadow over the area.

She is due to attend the Grenfell Tower National Memorial Service on Thursday together with the Prince of Wales, Duchess of Cornwall, Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry, survivors and other guests.

Her first task at the centre was to hand out presents and as the name of a child was called out by a member of staff, they came up with their mother to receive their gift.

As she presented a wrapped box to a little girl called Alice, Kate said: “It’s very big, is she going to be able to carry it?”

Kate spent around half an hour chatting privately to the mothers before she met a group of youngsters who were taking part in the music therapy session.

She chatted to a group of teenagers and local resident Reece Yeboah, 23, who had joined the group and knew someone who died in the Grenfell blaze.

He said of Kate’s visit: “I think we need more of these people coming through to help the community and keep spirits strong.

“It lifts our spirits, shows someone does care and makes us feel we’re not abandoned. I was saying to her, with the fire it’s affected everyone, people are still coping with it now.”

The 23-year-old, who was using the music therapy session to write down lyrics about his experiences, added: “We are some way coping with it a little bit, but things like this do help our spirit.”