After almost a decade of seeing the impact of a person’s early years, The Duchess of Cambridge this week launched the Royal Foundation Centre for Early Childhood, to focus on helping give all children the best start.
The Royal Foundation Centre for Early Childhood seeks to ‘help to make change through fresh research to identify opportunities, collaborations to scale solutions and creative campaigns to bring this issue to life’. It will start with about half a dozen staff and be funded by the Duke and Duchess’ Royal Foundation.
The three areas of its focus will be research, developing new solutions with public and private voluntary sectors, and awareness campaigns.
Catherine first headed to London School of Economics on Friday morning, where she took part in a round table discussion on the centre’s inaugural report, Big Change Starts Small, written in collaboration with LSE and Harvard University.
It revealed that the cost of a lack of action in early childhood is £16.1 billion each year in England alone, and brings together leading sector research in one place and underlines the critical lifelong impact of the early years on individuals, our economy and society at large.
It also sets out recommendations on how all aspects of society can contribute positively and make a difference on this important issue.
In the foreword, Kate said: “Our first five years lay important foundations for our future selves. This period is when we first learn to manage our emotions and impulses, to care and to empathise, and thus ultimately to establish healthy relationships with ourselves and others.
“It is a time when our experience of the world around us, and the way that moulds our development, can have a lifelong impact on our future mental and physical wellbeing. Indeed, what shapes our childhood shapes the adults and the parents we become.”
The early years focus for the Duchess, she has previously mentioned, is based on the notion that from inside the womb until the age of five is crucial in shaping the rest of our lives. As a cause, it overlapped into much of her work on addiction and mental health, as well as that of her husband.
Research shows that social challenges such as addiction, violence, family breakdown, homelessness and mental health have their roots in the earliest years of life and the centre comes after 10 years of work within the Royal Family for Catherine.
The Duchess also gave a speech, calling early years intervention the ‘social equivalent of climate change’. Kate said she was ‘really excited’ to launch the centre, and that she would ‘show that change really needs to happen, and the time for action is now’.
“Because I feel that this is the social equivalent of climate change, where we followed the science for many, many years. And that is what we have to do with early childhood development if we want to build a happier, healthier world. The more we learn about early childhood and the first five years of life the greater imperative it is to act.”
The launch comes just a week after the Duchess was joined by the US First Lady, Dr Jill Biden, on a visit to Connor Downs Academy in Cornwall. The pair share an interest in childhood causes.
Kate later spoke to those who have had an impact on her ‘early years journey’ at Kensington Palace, where she was seen animatedly talking to parents. This group of parents helped her understand the importance of providing support for those with children during their earliest years.
The Duchess released a short video announcement ahead of the engagement stating that, through this project, she wanted to ‘create a happier, more mentally healthy and more nurturing society’.
“My own journey into understanding the importance of early childhood actually started with adults, and not with children. It was about prevention.
Ten years in the making… pic.twitter.com/U2jBaUSrH2
— The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (@KensingtonRoyal) June 17, 2021
“I wanted to understand what more we could do to help prevent some of today’s toughest social challenges, and what more we could do to help with the rising rates of poor mental health.”
Many were impressed with the ‘Five Big Questions’ poll launched by The Duchess of Cambridge in 2020, which sought to understand perceptions of early childhood. More than half a million people took part – the biggest public response to a survey of its kind.