Kate ‘excited’ about new early years campaign

Kate ‘excited’ about new early years campaign

The Princess of Wales vowed on Wednesday to help young improve their social and emotional skills when she met experts advising her on a new campaign.

Kate, who will next week launch a new phase of her mission to highlight the importance a child’s early years, met her advisory board at Windsor Castle.

The meeting in the Green Drawing Room at the 953-year old castle came as experts pleaded with all politicians to devote more resources to giving the nation’s children a better start.

One said it was now possible to predict with confidence what physical illnesses a child would suffer in later life by just looking at their first five years.

Kate, 41, has created the Royal Foundation Centre for Early Childhood to bolster her work and help research influence new national policies for children.

She thanked the eight experts, some of whom she has worked with before, for their support. Their expertise is in sectors including neuroscience, psychology, perinatal psychiatry, early years services and policy development.

“ I just wanted to say before we start a massive thank you for the time, knowledge and expertise you’ve brought up to this point,” she told them.

“ I am really excited for next week. Lot’s coming up,” she added, laughing.

“Today I just want to think about and discuss what next really. How do we keep this conversation going?”

“This campaign is really laying the foundation of why early childhood matters.”

Sitting around a table with the experts, she said the task was to focus on what helps shapes us, what shapes our relationships, the emotional experience of childhood and on creating the “building blocks and the scaffolding” for how we first start to understand ourselves and others.

She told them: “These are really complicated, big issues to look at. But I think from the centre’s point of view, one of the main key areas is how do we develop the social and emotional skills which are vital for later life. How do we better manage and regulate our emotions? How do we build better relationships?

“So big questions, big topics, complicated, but I feel really excited to start the journey..”

Royal aides have said she hopes to influence policymakers including Government and opposition politicians.

Advisory panel member Dr Trudi Seneviratne, registrar at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said it was vital that politicians avoided cutting financial support to projects created by their predecessors.

The last Labour government created Sure Start centres for children but more than 1,000 have been shut since 2010 after funding was cut.

Dr Seneviratne said: "We need all of government to buy into this as a really ambitious longterm programme that actually continues regardless of changes of government - that’s really really important.

"We can’t have constant change so policy needs to be embedded in education, in healthcare, in maternity care, post natal care, in all of health and social care that supports families and it needs to continue. It needs to grow and expand - that’s absolutely critical.

"I think we run into lots of problems with projects opening and closing (as) that’s just not good enough for the child or indeed that family."

The advisory group will meet twice a year. Its other members are:

• Professor Peter Fonagy, Head of the Division of Psychology and Language Sciences at UCL and Chief Executive of the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families

• Eamon McCrory, Professor of Developmental Neuroscience and Psychopathology,

University College London

• Dr Alain Gregoire, Consultant Perinatal Psychiatrist and President and Founder of the

Maternal Mental Health Alliance

• Ed Vainker, co-founder of Reach Academy Feltham,

• Carey Oppenheim, Project Lead at the Nuffield Foundation

• Imran Hussain, Director of Policy and Campaigns for Action for Children

• Beverley Barnett-Jones, Associate Director at Nuffield Family Justice Observatory and Trustee at What Works in Children’s Social Care

Dr Gregoire said raising awareness across society, not just among parents, about the need to improve children’s social and emotional development was vital.

“Everybody knows that having a baby who weighs the right amount is kind of important even if they don’t know why.

“But people don’t fully understand how critically important relationships that we have with babies from birth are to their future health, to their future wellbeing. That is not well understood.

“Just getting that across and understood, not just to parents - this is not about parents, this is about the whole of society - nurturing families with young children, supporting families with young children.

“And you can do that through social structures but you can also do that just through the relationships that we have with families and as other human beings in society. We need to value children more.”