Scottish Daily Mail

Kate: Help chil­dren now to build a bet­ter world for to­mor­row

Duchess’s ap­peal for fo­cus on cru­cial early years

- By Rebecca English Royal Ed­i­tor

The early years of chil­dren’s lives must be treated with as much im­por­tance as the other great so­cial chal­lenges and op­por­tu­ni­ties of our time, the Duchess of Cam­bridge has said.

In a land­mark speech, Kate high­lighted trou­bling statis­tics which sug­gest that 40 per cent of chil­dren be­gin school with be­low the ex­pected lev­els of de­vel­op­ment.

She said this can di­rectly lead to so­cial chal­lenges such as poor men­tal health, ad­dic­tion and home­less­ness, with the cost of late in­ter­ven­tion es­ti­mated to be £17bil­lion.

The duchess, 38, said she be­lieved the pandemic had ex­ac­er­bated the prob­lem, with par­ents say­ing they feel even more iso­lated and lonely.

‘The pandemic has re­minded us just how much we value liv­ing in a world where peo­ple care for one an­other,’ she said. ‘And it is th­ese con­nec­tions, th­ese re­la­tion­ships that are founded in the ear­li­est years of our lives.’

She added that her own in­ter­est in early years de­vel­op­ment does not j ust stem f rom be­ing a mother-of-three.

‘Par­ent­hood isn’t a pre­req­ui­site for un­der­stand­ing the im­por­tance of the early years,’ she said.

‘If we only ex­pect peo­ple to take an in­ter­est in the early years when they have chil­dren, we are not only too late for them, we are un­der­es­ti­mat­ing the huge role oth­ers can play in shap­ing our most for­ma­tive years too.’

Kate ex­plained that over the past decade she had met peo­ple from all walks of life through her work, and seen that many key so­cial chal­lenges are of­ten grounded in a dif­fi­cult child­hood.

She said: ‘The early years are there­fore not sim­ply just about how we raise our chil­dren. They are in fact about how we raise the next gen­er­a­tion of adults. They are about the so­ci­ety we will be­come.’

In 2018 the duchess set up a steer­ing group com­prised of ex­perts, aca­demics and prac­ti­tion­ers to ex­plore what more could be done in the field of early years de­vel­op­ment.

ear­lier this year she com­mis­sioned, through the Royal Foun­da­tion of the Duke and Duchess of

Cam­bridge, an Ip­sos MORI sur­vey into pub­lic per­cep­tion of the im­por­tance of the early years, which at­tracted a record half a mil­lion re­sponses. Along with a more re­cent study into the ef­fects of Covid, it com­prises the most com­pre­hen­sive pub­lic re­search on early years de­vel­op­ment ever un­der­taken in the UK.

In a pre-recorded speech for a ma­jor online fo­rum yes­ter­day to launch the re­search, Kate said: ‘I be­lieve the early years should be on par with the other great so­cial chal­lenges and op­por­tu­ni­ties of our time. It is a brave thing to be­lieve in an out­come – in a world even – that might not be fully felt for a gen­er­a­tion or more.’

The duchess’s in­ter­ven­tion was wel­comed by chil­dren’s min­is­ter Vicky Ford, who said the Gov­ern­ment was al­ready look­ing into the i ssue. Tulip Sid­diq, Labour’s spokesman for chil­dren and early years, added: ‘This im­por­tant in­ter­ven­tion from the Duchess of Cam­bridge is a re­minder to us all about what is at stake when de­ci­sions are made about early years sup­port, and I hope the Gov­ern­ment is lis­ten­ing.’

Peter Wan­less, chief ex­ec­u­tive of NSPCC, praised the re­port. he added: ‘Dis­ap­point­ingly, the Gov­ern­ment did not com­mit to suf­fi­cient fund­ing and re­sources aimed at pub­lic health ser­vices for ba­bies and par­ents in this week’s spend­ing re­view and are now at risk of leav­ing many more fam­i­lies be­hind when they most need sup­port.’

‘Un­der­es­ti­mat­ing the role of oth­ers’

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