- Kate has been driving force behind a study on perceptions of early childhood
- Delivered speech today during an online forum hosted by The Royal Foundation
- Called for early years to be on par with other great social challenges of our time
- Mother-of-three, 38, went on to emphasise the long-term nature of this work
Kate Middleton has spoken of her ambition to put the early years on an equal footing with the other great social challenges and opportunities of our time.
The Duchess of Cambridge, 38, delivered a keynote speech today during an online forum hosted by The Royal Foundation as she unveiled the findings of the biggest ever UK study on the early years.
It is a milestone moment for her work on the importance of early childhood in shaping the rest of our lives and broader societal outcomes.
Speaking at the event, Kate said: ‘We must do all we can to tackle these issues and to elevate the importance of the early years, so that together we can build a more nurturing society.
‘Because I believe, the early years should be on par with the other great social challenges and opportunities of our time. And next year, we will announce ambitious plans to support this objective.’
The research, commissioned by The Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and conducted by Ipsos MORI, reveals what the UK thinks about the early years.
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It includes the findings of the 5 Big Questions survey which attracted over half a million responses earlier this year, making it the biggest ever survey of its kind.
Kate went on to emphasise the long-term nature of this work, and underlined the importance of early childhood in shaping the rest of our lives and broader societal outcomes, saying: ‘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.
‘But what you do isn’t for the quick win – it is for the big win. It is for a happier, healthier society as well as happier, healthier children.’
The research published today has generated 5 Big Insights which highlight the need to help people understand the importance of the early years and suggest that parents and carers need more support and advice to ensure good mental health and wellbeing as they raise young children.
The Duchess also spoke about her own interest in the early years and highlighted the important part that all of society has to play in raising the next generation. She said: ‘People often ask why I care so passionately about the early years.
‘Many mistakenly believe that my interest stems from having children of my own. While of course I care hugely about their start in life, this ultimately sells the issue short.
‘Parenthood isn’t a prerequisite for understanding the importance of the early years.
‘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.’
More than half-a-million people took part in the Royal Foundation’s ‘five big questions on the under-fives’ poll which was carried out by Ipsos MORI and produced the largest-ever response from the public to a survey of its kind.
It found that although 90 per cent see parental mental health and wellbeing as critical to a child’s development, only 10 per cent of parents took time to look after themselves when they prepared for the arrival of their baby.
The study – which has produced five key insights – also showed that the Covid-19 pandemic has dramatically increased parental loneliness, with 38 per cent experiencing this before the crisis, and 63 per cent – almost two-thirds – after the first lockdown, a jump of 25 per cent.
While 98 per cent believe that nurture is essential to lifelong outcomes, some 24 per cent think pregnancy to age five is the most pivotal period for health and happiness in adulthood.
The research has been hailed a ‘milestone moment’ for Kate, and will be used to shape her future focus on early years development which, sources say, will continue for the rest of her life.
The duchess has made early years development one of the main pillars of her public role since she first became a member of the royal family.
In 2018 she created a steering group to investigate the link between childhood experiences and adult behaviour and hopes that the results of their survey and other research will encourage a ‘nationwide conversation’ on the subject, raising awareness of how the first five years of a child’s life will impact the next 50 years.
This afternoon’s online forum was hosted by Dr Xand Van Tulleken (Associate Professor of Public Health at University College London) and featured a presentation from Ipsos MORI’s Managing Director of Public Affairs, Kelly Beaver.
Dr Trudi Seneviratne, (Registrar, Royal College of Psychiatrists, Adult & Perinatal Psychiatrist & Clinical Director), Jon Rouse (City Director, Stoke-on-Trent City Council) and Dr Guddi Singh (Paediatric Doctor, Evelina Children’s Hospital, Guy’s & St.Thomas’) took part in a panel discussion on the findings of the research.