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Why Kate Middleton's early years work is so important

The Duchess of Cambridge shared insights from her early years survey

Emily Nash

The Duchess of Cambridge has made the early years a key focus of her public work, making a commitment to giving every child the best possible start in life.

Although she is a proud mother of three herself, she says her keen interest in the subject was sparked "right from the early days, meeting lots of people who are suffering with addiction or poor mental health, and hearing time and time again that their troubles now in adulthood stem right back from early childhood experience."

READ: Kate Middleton shares her thoughts during rare Q&A

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WATCH: Duchess Kate delivers one of her biggest royal speeches to date

And she insists: "This isn't just about happy, healthy children, it's about the society we could and can become."

It's a view shared by the experts and by three people who spoke to HELLO! about why Kate's work is so crucial. 

Kirsty Day, More Than My Past Ambassador for The Forward Trust, a national charity that helps people break the cycle of addiction and offending. She met the Duchess in 2015 and again this year at HMP Send.

Kirsty told HELLO!: "My parents were heroin addicts and I was weaned off it at birth, but family life was chaotic and I was put into care.

"As a child, that toxic level of stress becomes normal if you've never seen any different and I learned to depend on myself. If my childhood was a jigsaw puzzle with significant pieces missing, drugs somehow managed to complete it.

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The Duchess meeting Kirsty with the Forward Trust at HMP Send in January

"I was jailed for shoplifting aged 18 and spent years in prisons as a result of my addiction, until I found the RAPT programme (now The Forward Trust programme) at HMP Send.

"I'm now a wife and mother, a Cambridge University research fellow and Head of Recovery Services at The Nelson Trust, which supports women recovering from addiction and trauma.

"We all know about the Kate effect, so when the Duchess presents something like this and raises awareness, it has an impact. It's not just her standing in society or in the monarchy, but she's a mother and she's a mother that other mothers aspire to be like.

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Kate during her keynote speech on the early years research

"When she talks, people listen. Her work on this is crucial in helping people to recognise the connection between adverse childhood experiences and adult adversity.

"There's a point at which a child who is seen as a victim by society suddenly becomes an adult perpetrator, whether as an addict or an offender, and is rejected. This is the stigma of addiction and offending, but sometimes they are still that child walking around in an adult's body trying to cope the best way they can with what has happened to them. People can change and live productive lives.

"The More than My Past campaign shows that change is possible and that's why I am so proud to be part of it. Without organisations like the Nelson Trust and Forward Trust, I wouldn't be where I am today."

Louise* and her daughter Sophie* attended Action on Addiction's M-PACT (Moving Parents and Children Together) course at The Brink, a day treatment centre in Liverpool first visited by the Duchess in 2012.

Louise said: "I grew up with an alcoholic father who was often physically and emotionally unavailable and tragically took his own life while I was still a teenager. When my own husband later became an addict, my daughter's situation became an uncanny reflection of my own childhood.

"The course at the Brink completely changed our lives. It was so empowering for both of us.

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The Duchess at the Brink in 2012

"They were able to teach Sophie about her father's addiction in a way that I couldn't have because I didn't have the words – and we both learned to put ourselves first.

"It gave Sophie a voice. She started speaking up and saying what she wanted and how she felt. She has really grown emotionally and spiritually.

"Now we've found our own happiness, our safe place. We healed, which has brought about a healing in him.

"Sophie knows her Dad loves her, she knows he's not well, and she knows he's trying to get better. We're taking very small steps, starting to reconnect and slowly be a family again, but Sophie's experience has given her the tools to break free from the suffocating cycle of family addiction."

*Names have been changed

Professor Peter Fonagy, Chief Executive of the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families

"HRH the Duchess of Cambridge has been a passionate advocate for children, particularly in their early years.

"This new report is an urgent call for action that we need to make sure that parents and carers have the support they need, so that all children can thrive. It is a very welcome contribution at this time.

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Peter Fonagy with the Duchess in 2017

"There is nothing more important we can do for the youngest members of our society than to give them a fair and equal start in life.

"The report begins to give guidance on how we support them during this period will have an impact on their happiness, their health and their chances of realising their potential.

"No parent can achieve this alone, instead they need networks of friends and family, as well as lasting support from health and education. That way, we create a nurturing community around each and every child."

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