Duchess of Cambridge says early years should be treated as ‘one of great social challenges of our time’
The Duchess of Cambridge has called for early years development to be “on par with the other great social challenges of our time” as she warned that change might not be fully felt for a generation.
In a keynote speech delivered at a Royal Foundation forum, the Duchess revealed that her own interest in early childhood did not stem from becoming a mother, insisting that being a parent was “not a prerequisite for understanding the importance of the early years.”
She warned that waiting until parenthood before showing an interest was too late.
The Duchess has unveiled the findings of the biggest ever UK study on the early years, which reveals that only a quarter of parents understand the critical importance of early childhood.
The report, commissioned by the Royal Foundation, concludes that parents need better support and access to information from society as a whole.
The Duchess Of Cambridge has released landmark research on the early years
Credit: KENSINGTON PALACE
It said the significance of pregnancy and pre-school development must be better promoted, warning that the current lack of understanding could lead to a “passive” approach to childcare.
The Duchess 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.”
The mother-of-three went on: “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.”
The Duchess ended her pre-recorded speech by thanking all those involved in raising and supporting children. “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,” she said.
“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.
“Only by working together can we bring about lasting change for the generations to come. Because I truly believe, big change starts small.”
The report has been welcomed by many in the early years sector, who are expected to lean heavily on its findings.
The Duchess meeting mums at Joe's Ice Cream Parlour near Swansea
Credit: Arthur Edwards/The Sun
Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of the National Day Nurseries Association, said the report was “crucial” in highlighting the importance of early years and must be considered in any policy decisions affecting families.
Dr Amanda Gummer, founder of The Good Play Guide, said: “I am delighted that such an important topic is being highlighted and discussed through this research and I hope it leads to real change.
“I firmly believe that by supporting parents in the early years, they become more confident and better able to meet the needs of their children, which then has a positive impact on the child’s development, education and long term health and economic outcomes.
It’s therefore a ‘no brainer’ to put in the support needed for young families from the start and take a more proactive, preventative approach which will pay dividends to the whole of society in the future.”
Peter Wanless, NSPCC chief executive, said: “The survey shows how loneliness has made things harder for new parents during the pandemic, but years of neglecting health visiting services mean families across the country are being left without the professional help they are entitled to.
“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.”
The online forum was hosted by Dr Xand Van Tulleken, associate professor of public health at University College London, who is better known to parents as co-presenter of CBBC programme Operation Ouch, alongside his twin brother, Dr Chris Van Tulleken.
Several experts took part in a panel discussion about the report’s findings, including: Dr Trudi Seneviratne from the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Jon Rouse, director of Stoke-on-Trent City Council and Dr Guddi Singh, a paediatric specialist at Evelina Children’s Hospital, Guy’s & St.Thomas’s.