Duchess of Cambridge launches Centre for Early Childhood: 'We can break the cycle for next generation'

Watch: Kate launches Centre for Early Childhood to create ‘more nurturing world’

The Duchess of Cambridge has spoken of being able to "break the cycle" of a bad start in life when raising children, as she launches her landmark project as a royal.

Kate, 39, echoed her brother-in-law Prince Harry as she announced her Centre for Early Childhood, expected to be her milestone royal project and what she will focus on for years to come.

The duchess has long had an interest in the formative first five years of a child's life, and following a huge national survey in Spring 2020, has set up the centre via the Royal Foundation she shares with husband Prince William.

She said the interest in early years came before she had her own children, as she met people dealing with mental health struggles, addiction and homelessness from the very first days of her royal life.

Although she was working with and meeting adults she said: "I was struck by how often poor mental health but also early childhood was the focus of our conversation."

Explaining the importance of the first five years of a child's life, she wrote: "Indeed, what shapes our childhood shapes the adults and the parents we become.

"But - and this is crucial to understand - even if we ourselves didn’t get the best start in life we can still break the cycle and develop the skills needed to raise the next generation better."

Her words come soon after Prince Harry used similar phrases to discuss his own approach to parenting. Harry, 36, said he wanted to "break the cycle of pain and suffering" in his family, indicating he did not want to pass on methods of parenting he had experienced to his son Archie and daughter, Lilibet.

Kate launched her new project with a video shared on social media. (Royal Foundation/Kensington Palace)
Kate launched her new project with a video shared on social media. (Royal Foundation/Kensington Palace)

The duchess launched the centre with a report released on Friday, and shared a video on social media channels, in which she wore a necklace with the letters 'GCL', a reference to her children George, Charlotte and Louis.

In the foreword to her report, she said: "What this means is that we need to go beyond physical needs and give focus to social and emotional needs too. Nurtured children are the consequence of nurturing adults.

"So to invest in children means also investing in the people around them - the parents, carers, grandparents, early years workforce and more. And therefore, transforming early childhood comes back to each and every one of us.

"There are so many ways in which we can all support, whether as private, public and voluntary sectors, as individuals or as communities."

The report estimates that in England alone, rectifying issues that stem from early childhood costs £16.13bn every year, in remedying problems from putting in children in care, to longer-term mental and physical health issues.

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The duchess's report highlights six areas to make a difference, from raising awareness of the impact of the early years to building a mentally healthier and nurturing society, and creating communities of support.

It also highlights how to strengthen the early years workforce, putting the data to work for the age group, and supporting long-term and intergenerational change.

Her report calls for greater priority for mental wellbeing across society, and investment in the "mental health, wellbeing and emotional literacy of parents and caregivers to help build virtuous cycles of improved wellbeing and positive stable relationships across the lifespan".

Kate's team also want to see poverty addressed, calling for "urgent steps... to ensure that families with the youngest children are not struggling to survive without adequate nutrition, nappies and clothes and affordable and safe housing."

Acknowledging the long road ahead, Kate signed off her video saying: "By working together, my hope is that we can change the way we think about early childhood, and transform lives for generations to come.

"Because I truly believe big change starts small."

As well as the report, Kate has launched a new website which will help raise awareness of the importance of the early years and set out the "scientific, economic and social opportunity for change" Kensington Palace said.

NEWTOWNARDS, NORTHERN IRELAND - FEBRUARY 12: Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge visits The Ark Open Farm on February 12, 2020 in Newtownards, Northern Ireland. This visit is part of her Early Years Foundation Survey.  (Photo by Pool/Samir Hussein/WireImage)
The Duchess of Cambridge visiting The Ark Open Farm in February 2020 in Newtownards, Northern Ireland, as part of her Early Years Foundation Survey. (Samir Hussein/WireImage)
HAYLE, UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 11: Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge (L) and U.S. First Lady Dr Jill Biden, carrying carrots for the school rabbit, Storm, during a visit to Connor Downs Academy, during the G7 summit in Cornwall on June 11, 2021 in Hayle, west Cornwall, England. (Photo by Aaron Chown/WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Kate with Jill Biden, carrying carrots for the school rabbit, Storm, on a visit to Connor Downs Academy, during the G7 summit in Cornwall in June 2021. (Aaron Chown/WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Chairman of The Royal Foundation, Lord Hague said: "The launch of the Centre for Early Childhood is a pivotal moment in the Duchess of Cambridge’s work on this critical issue. Her Royal Highness and The Royal Foundation are determined to help bring about lasting change for future generations.

“The duchess and the foundation will aim to bring people together from all corners of the country and all parts of society to help improve early childhoods and ultimately, lifelong outcomes. Over the coming years, the Centre will help to create better understanding of the relevant issues, making it clear why the experiences we have in our earliest years are so important - not just to us as individuals, but to society at large."

Last week, the duchess joined with US first lady Jill Biden for a visit to a school in Cornwall, as a side event during the G7 summit.

After meeting some of the children of Connor Downs Academy, they joined a roundtable of experts.

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM - JUNE 08: (EMBARGOED FOR PUBLICATION IN UK NEWSPAPERS UNTIL 24 HOURS AFTER CREATE DATE AND TIME) Prince William, Duke of Cambridge, Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Prince Louis of Cambridge, Prince George of Cambridge and Princess Charlotte of Cambridge on the balcony of Buckingham Palace during Trooping The Colour, the Queen's annual birthday parade, on June 8, 2019 in London, England. The annual ceremony involving over 1400 guardsmen and cavalry, is believed to have first been performed during the reign of King Charles II. The parade marks the official birthday of the Sovereign, although the Queen's actual birthday is on April 21st. (Photo by Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)
The Duchess of Cambridge has previously said her interest in the Early Years pre-dates having her own children. (Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)

The two women then wrote an op-ed for CNN highlighting their support to Early Years work and encouraging the sharing of data and information between the two nations.

The duchess's landmark solo project follows the launch of her husband's Earthshot Prize, which will see millions of pounds given out to individuals, groups, cities and even countries as they tackle problems faced by the world like climate change and ocean pollution.

William and Kate have been carrying out royal duties on a full time basis since 2017 but their relative youth in the time of coronavirus has pushed them even more to the forefront.

They remain two of the most popular Royal Family members, with William on almost equal footing with his grandmother, the Queen, in some polls.

Watch: Kate discusses early years education with US First Lady