Kate heads to Cardiff & Surrey to promote 5 Big Questions: baby sensory class and prison life

After launching the 5 Big Questions survey in Birmingham yesterday, The Duchess of Cambridge took part in a baby sensory class in Cardiff, and headed to a prison in Woking, to spread the word of the early years’ survey.

For a look at the Duchess’ outfit, head to our sister site here.

The Duchess of Cambridge on her mini tour of the UK, launching 5 Big Questions.

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Kate’s first stop was a at Ely and Careau Children’s Centre in Cardiff, where babies and parents were enjoying floor time. Some were exploring sounds and sight with shiny steel bowls and cups, while others used their hands feeling textures with spaghetti and jelly!

The centre provides support services to children and their families and helps youngsters with special needs in addition to offering adult education, parenting support and community education teams.

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The Duchess was clearly enjoying being around the small ones, crouching down and discussing the children with their parents.

In a sit down talk session, Catherine spoke of her initial struggles as a new mother in 2013, when she and Prince William lived in Anglesey: “I was chatting to some of the mums earlier. It was the first year and I’d just had George – William was still working with Search and Rescue and we came up here and I had a tiny tiny baby in the middle of Anglesey it was so isolated, so cut off…

“I didn’t have any family around and he was doing night shifts.

“If only I had had a centre like this,” she giggled, also saying it was lovely to be back in Wales.

William spent three years piloting a Sea King for search and rescue missions out of RAF Valley; he undertook 156 operations and helped rescue 149 people.

Head of the centre, Carolyn Asante, commented: “That’s the thing, we all need it (support). It’s not about social status. When you’re a parent, you take home this little baby and I don’t know about you but I didn’t know which way was up or down.”

“You can come here and tell people, ‘I haven’t slept’,” said Rhi.

“And everyone else is like, ‘I haven’t either!’” laughed Kate. “It normalises it. No one is going to judge you for it. And it’s a social thing for you.”

Kate speaks about parenting, motherhood and young children at the Ely Centre in Cardiff (Kensington Palace)

Perhaps alluding to the survey itself, which asks who the participant thinks is responsible for children’s development, the Duchess explained. “So many families now are so spread out. It’s much harder to rely on other generations for support.”

5 Big Questions is a study by IPSOS Mori on behalf of the Royal Foundation, which is thought to be the largest of its kind in the UK. It seeks to find out people’s views on childhood and development, from adults across the country, parents and childless alike.

Asking several parents if they’d seen the survey she said: “What do you think? There is so much pressure on parents, but actually they need the community too.”

Mrs Asante praised Kate for being “so genuine and down to earth”, and said she was happy that there would be a focus on the development of younger children thanks to the Duchess’s survey.  “It doesn’t matter where you come from, as a parent you will benefit from this kind of approach,” she said.

Open access play, breakfast, after-school activities and holiday clubs are also available at the centre, as well as health visitors for growing babies, and speech and language therapists.

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The Duchess of Cambridge at the Ely and Careau Children’s Centre in Cardiff, during her 24 hour tour of the UK to launch a survey on early childhood

Kate also spent some time outside, even getting to meet the centre’s guinea pigs, Bella and Willow. She told the children who were petting them: “I had guinea pigs when I was little.”

The Duchess then headed to Surrey, where she spent time at HMP Send in Woking. Catherine has visited Send in the past, back in 2015, and got to talk to women she met last time, who have since been released and are trying to rebuild their families.

Send is a resettlement prison housing an 80-bed unit that helps women with rehabilitation, building skills and confidence. The women she met had been through a 12-step drug treatment created by The Forward Trust, which works in 25 prisons across Britain.

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She sat with trustee Benny Refson and former prisoners who have received help with rehabilitation from the Forward Trust charity. The organisation aims to build women’s skills, improve their self-esteem and look at reasons behind their offending; it also aims to help them gain vocational qualifications and work experience to reintegrate into society, after prison.

Catherine chatted to ex-offenders about their childhood traumas, which ranged from alcoholic, drug-using or absent parents, family breakdown, to domestic abuse, and how they believed it had led to their offending.

One current prisoner, Francesca, told Kate that she got on drugs and started breaking rules, and eventually the law, after her parents split up.

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With the Forward Trust programme, she has started to resolve many of her issues going back to childhood. “What they have done here has literally changed my life. It’s a miracle,” she said.

“Coming to jail is one of the best things that has ever happened to me.”

The Duchess smiled and said: “It’s so often I hear that. Why does it have to get to that point before people receive the help and support?”

Duchess Kate leaves HMP Send (Kensington Palace)

She told the women: “I’m hugely passionate about trying to really help get into this crisis trying to help provide that prevention mechanism and that support system in our communities. Particularly that support in the early years of life.”

“It really shocked me when I came here last time how early the challenges were that you face,” the Royal told them.

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