Princess of Wales exclusive: Not enough is being done to help the next generation

Princess of Wales - Chris Jackson/Getty Images
Princess of Wales - Chris Jackson/Getty Images

The Princess of Wales warns that “not enough is being done” to nurture Britain’s youngest children, as she pledges to use her role to do “everything she can” to protect the next generation.

The Princess, writing in the Telegraph, says she is determined to “shine a light” on the “crucial” early years, calling the youngest members of society “our future”.

Setting out her mission for the next stage of her life in the Royal family, she speaks of the critical importance of building a “safe and loving world around a child”.

By focusing on the “unique importance” of the first five years of life, she says, it is possible to “create a healthier and happier society for future generations”.

She adds: “There are fantastic examples of what can be achieved when we recognise the unique potential of early childhood and build a safe and loving world around a child.

“But not enough is being done. That is why I am determined to continue to shine a light on this issue and to do everything I can to secure much greater focus on those first crucial few years for the youngest members of our society - they are, after all, our future.”

Princess of Wales - ARTHUR EDWARDS/AFP/Getty Images
Princess of Wales - ARTHUR EDWARDS/AFP/Getty Images

The Princess’s pledge follows a decade of work in the public eye, in which she has focused closely on early years development.

The Telegraph has published a detailed analysis of the sector, detailing the challenges it faces and how the Princess’s own Centre for Early Childhood is working to improve the lives of young children and those who care for them.

It follows research compiled by the centre highlighting a widespread lack of understanding about the importance of children’s earliest years in their development.

Experts now argue that early intervention is the key to improving life outcomes for all, with one study by the London School of Economics estimating that it costs £16 billion to remedy long-term mental and physical health issues that may have been avoided through intervention in childhood.

The Princess, under her former title of Duchess of Cambridge, has already undertaken a series of campaigns to raise awareness of the importance of early childhood, with a regular programme of engagements designed to boost the sector.

‘Unique potential of early childhood’

She has now promised to continue the mission to convince the public of the “unique potential of early childhood” and the chance to “build a safe and loving world around a child”.

Next week, she will take her message to Boston in the US, as part of a three-day trip focused on the Prince of Wales’s Earthshot Prize.

In 2023, she is expected to embark on a further awareness-raising campaign as part of the next phase of the project.

Explaining why she has chosen to dedicate her working life in the Royal family to the issue, she says ten years of speaking to experts had left her “more and more sure of one thing: if we are going to create a healthier and happier society for future generations, we must start by understanding and acknowledging the unique importance of the first five years of life”.

She adds: “If we are going to tackle the sorts of complex challenges we face today like homelessness, violence and addiction, so often underpinned by poverty and poor mental health, we have to fully appreciate those most preventative years and do everything we can to nurture our children and those who care for them.”

Princess of Wales - CHRIS JACKSON/AFP/Getty Images
Princess of Wales - CHRIS JACKSON/AFP/Getty Images

In a call to action, the Princess adds: “We have an incredible opportunity, armed with all we now know as a result of the work of dedicated scientists, researchers and practitioners, to make a huge difference to the mental and physical health of generations to come.”

The Princess’s work is informed by 30 years of expert research into the importance of the early years. In recent years, she has convened a steering group of expert advisers, resulting in the launch of the Royal Foundation’s Centre for Early Childhood to further research and public campaigning.

Amanda Berry, the chief executive of the Royal Foundation, said: “The Princess of Wales has developed a real knowledge and passion for this work over the past decade and has made it clear that in her new role her commitment is as strong as ever.

“Ensuring that people understand the importance of the first five years of a child’s life and the huge impact early childhood has on shaping the rest of our lives will continue to be a major focus of Her Royal Highness’s work.

“This is also where The Royal Foundation Centre for Early Childhood is uniquely placed to help.

“There is so much good work going on in the early years sector already – what we can do is shine a light on the issue, draw public attention to it and in doing so create a climate for change and an environment in which babies and very young children are prioritised.”