Scottish Daily Mail
Kate: Help children now to build a better world for tomorrow
Duchess’s appeal for focus on crucial early years
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’