Duchess Kate previews big plans to help support parents following her early years survey

By Zach Harper

Duchess Kate said she will announce big plans to support parents and caregivers next year as she revealed the results from her landmark early years survey this week.

The Duchess of Cambridge shared several key findings from the "5 Big Questions on the Under 5s" survey on Nov. 26 and 27. The data, which are quite striking, indicate 98 per cent of respondents believed nurture was important in terms of determining lifelong outcomes, but only 1 in 4 respondents connected that with a child's first five years.

The results also show 90 per cent of people believe parental mental health and well-being are linked to children's development, but just 10 per cent of parents said they take "time to look after their own well-being." Additionally, 70 per cent of parents reported feeling judged by others and believe that affects their mental health.

In a keynote speech at The Royal Foundation's London Forum on Early Years, Kate appeared via video and called the insights "critical." She said they prompt important questions that "will help guide our work in the years to come."

"Firstly, if parents are struggling to prioritize their own well-being, how can we better support them?" she asked.

"Secondly, what is at the root of why parents feel so judged? Thirdly, how can we address parental loneliness, which has dramatically increased during the pandemic, particularly in the most deprived areas?

"And finally, if less than a quarter of us understand the unique importance of a child's first five years, what can we do to make this better known?"

Kate attends a briefing on her survey's results with Ipsos MORI's Kelly Beaver on Nov. 24. Photo: © Kensington Palace via Getty Images

"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."

Kate has spent the last nine years learning about early years, and this survey is a result of that work. She believes strongly that the first five years children's lives help determine their adulthood, and that societal issues such as homelessness, poverty and mental health problems can be mitigated or reduced by ensuring children have a solid start to life in their first five years.

"The early years are not therefore simply just about how we raise our children," she said in her speech. "They are in fact about how we raise the next generation of adults. They are about the society we will become."

Kate wants to use the results of the survey to help improve support for parents across the U.K. Photo: © Kensington Palace via Getty Images

Kate paused to say that she cares deeply about these issues, and not just because she has three children.

"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," she said.

The duchess also took time to thank those working with children, especially during the coronavirus pandemic, which she recognized has had an additional impact on children and parents. The survey also found that 38 to 68 per cent of parents have been cut off from families and friends due to the pandemic, and parental loneliness has increased as a result.

"Over the last nine months, the pandemic has been a worrying time for us all," Kate said. "We have experienced isolation, loss and uncertainty. But in the midst of this crisis, we have also seen huge acts of kindness, generosity and empathy.

"The pandemic has reminded us just how much we value living in a world where people care for one another and the importance of feeling connected to the people around us. And it is these connections, these relationships, that are founded in the earliest years of our lives."

Kate's survey was conducted from Jan. 22 to Feb. 22, and she promoted it with visits to Cardiff, Birmingham, Woking, London, Belfast and Aberdeen. It was the largest survey in the United Kingdom ever done on the early years of children's lives, and received more than 500,000 responses. You can read the survey's full results at The Royal Foundation of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge's website.

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