The Duchess of Cambridge has admitted she would have welcomed extra support after giving birth to Prince George while she lived in rural North Wales.
Kate was speaking at an integrated children’s centre which offers support to parents during her visit to Wales, where she and Prince William lived for three years until 2015 while he worked as an RAF search and rescue pilot.
Her visit to Ely and Caerau Children’s Centre in Cardiff on Wednesday was part of the launch of her landmark national survey about the early years development of children, titled “five big questions on the under fives”.
After hearing about the support parents receive from the centre, Kate said: “It’s nice to be back in Wales.
“I was chatting to some of the mums, I had just had George and William was still working with search and rescue, so we came up here when George was a tiny, tiny little baby, in the middle of Anglesey.
“It was so isolated, so cut off, I didn’t have my family around me, he was doing night shifts, so if only I’d had a centre like this at a certain time …”
Head of the centre, Carolyn Asante, told Kate: “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.”
After the visit, 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.
Mrs Asante said: “She was genuinely interested in what the children had to say, and you can’t fake that.
“It’s great to have the spotlight shone on the early years because everyone here recognises its importance and that it’s such a crucial stage of development, so if we can get it right at this stage we’ve given children the best possible start.
“I think it’s brilliant she’s chosen this to be her focus.”
Mrs Asante said there should be more access to centres like hers for parents who could benefit from support, saying: “It doesn’t matter where you come from, as a parent you will benefit from this kind of approach.
“This non-judgmental group you can go to when you’ve had a rubbish morning at home and you’re not feeling as though anything’s going right or you’re doing a good job.
⏱️ Take just 5 minutes to have your say in the biggest ever conversation on early childhood and help bring about positive, lasting change for generations to come #5BigQuestions 👇https://t.co/MaMnlxPDkh pic.twitter.com/5fjpvWDkeV
— Kensington Palace (@KensingtonRoyal) January 22, 2020
“The plan was to roll out this kind of model more widely, but there has never been the money.”
Kate met children and parents at the centre, which offers support in both Welsh and English, and was seen playing with toddlers before being marched to a guinea pig house by one young girl.
The “five big questions on the under fives” online poll, conducted by Ipsos Mori on behalf of the Royal Foundation, is thought to be the biggest survey of its kind and aims to encourage a nationwide conversation on early childhood.
The duchess, who is mother to three young children, Prince George, Princess Charlotte and Prince Louis, said at an earlier visit to Birmingham: “I’m here today to help launch a survey to hear society’s views about raising the next generation.
“Parents, carers and families are at the heart of caring for children in the formative years, so that is why I want to listen to them.
“As a parent, I know how much we cherish the future health and happiness of our children.
“I want to hear the key issues affecting our families and communities so I can focus my work on where it is needed most.
“My ambition is to provide a lasting change for generations to come.”
The duchess finished her tour with a visit to women’s prison HMP Send, in Surrey, where she met people who are receiving and have received help in their rehabilitation from The Forward Trust.
Kate visited the prison in 2015 and was reacquainted with some of the women she met five years ago.
She said to a group who have since been released from custody: “It really shocked me when I came here last time how early the challenges were that you face. How early you could take it back.”
One inmate described their time in prison as one of the best things to have happened to them, crediting the support of The Forward Trust programmes.
On hearing that, the duchess commented: “It’s so often I hear that, why does it have to get to that point before people receive the help and support?”
Returning to the impact early years experiences can have on people, Kate said: “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.”
Benny Refson, trustee at The Forward Trust, called the duchess’s interest in their work “huge”, adding: “It’s actually recognising the importance of the work, and the complex world that prisons are, and the uncomfortable world, and by her coming to these prisons it’s giving value to the work that people do.”