The Princess of Wales spoke about the importance of understanding the “backstory” of young people at risk of becoming drawn to a life of violence and crime on a visit to an intervention charity.
She made the remarks to a team of frontline workers at Streets of Growth, in east London - an organisation that works with vulnerable young people aged between 15 and 25.
The 41-year-old said: “Young people get judged on their external behaviour but you have to understand their backstory.
“They haven’t probably seen trusting relationships in their lives so that’s so important.”
The Princess said she was keen to “connect the dots” with her work on early childhood and the importance of reaching out to families and young people before they reach “crisis point”.
The mother-of-three has made the early years a coronerstone of her work, launching Shaping Us, a long-term campaign, in January through The Royal Foundation for Early Childhood.
The Princess was told that Streets of Growth ran outreach and intervention sessions and had helped more than 5,000 young people over two decades.
She said: “I love the fact you’re going out into communities, kids are so isolated, they’re at home with these huge struggles.”
Frontline staff engage with vulnerable young people who have experienced harm and trauma with coaching, skills development, social action and work experience across a wide range of sectors.
The Princess later met mothers and daughters who have been helped by the service, looking at some of the shoes and jewellery they have made in craft workshops.
One of the girls told her: “Doing these workshops has really helped - I used to be so shy, I didn’t really talk.”
The Princess said: “What’s so fantastic is there’s an organisation in the community that works with a whole family in this way.
“It’s tools and skills and being able to express. All these things are what so many people like this and the country need.
“It’s also meeting families and young people before they get to crisis point and there’s a huge amount of intervention that can be done.”
One member of staff told her: “Sometimes they don’t know that they need help. A lot of the time, the young people don’t even want to know us, it just means showing up every day. They’re very vulnerable.”
Chatting to actor Eddie Marsam, patron of the charity, the Princess said: “The problem is that so many young people don’t have access to services like this, we need to scale it up, up and down the country.
“It is possible - it does make a difference.”
‘The sky’s the limit’
Darren Way, who founded the organisation, said after the visit that the Princess “makes you very relaxed”, adding that “the sky’s the limit” in their mission to help more vulnerable young people.
Streets of Growth was founded following a fact-finding mission to the United States where Mr Way was inspired by the work of Roca in Boston - an urban violence prevention charity which was visited by the Prince and Princess of Wales in December when they were in the country for the Earthshot Prize awards ceremony.
Mr Way said: “This is a very unusual approach to mental health by taking talks to the street.
“We’re going out to gangs and non-gangs and we go in your house to help young people escape domestic violence.”
Mr Way admitted funding in the sector was scarce but remained optimistic about its outlook, adding: “When you get an organisation like us that was founded with £10 and two chairs … to 22 years later Her Royal Highness recognising our work, the sky’s the limit now – it’s game on.”