The royal mom headed to the women’s prison HMP Send in Surrey, England, on Wednesday to reconnect with former and current inmates she previously met during a 2015 visit. She learned how some of the women are rebuilding their lives and families after being successfully rehabilitated and released.
Palace insiders say that Kate’s mission to help women and children in the early years had been partly inspired by a previous visit to Send in 2015. It and other experiences have contributed to her view that adults with problems can normally trace them back to childhood and often pass them on to their own children.
Kate heard about the work done by the Forward Trust to support clients in improving their relationships with friends and families, including reuniting with children. She also spoke to women currently at the prison.
Palace insiders say that Kate’s mission to help women and children in the early years had been partly inspired by a previous visit to Send in 2015. Her experience contributed to her view that adults with can normally trace issues back to childhood and often pass them on to their own children.
“It really shocked me when I came here last time how early the challenges were that you faced,” Kate told a group of former inmates, including three women she met in 2015 when they were serving sentences. “How early you could take it back.”
In the prison visits hall, sitting around a coffee table with mugs of tea and a cake, she talked to five ex-offenders about their childhood traumas — problems with alcoholic or absent parents, family breakdown, domestic abuse — and how they believed it had triggered their offending.
She also had conversations with four women currently serving sentences at the prison who told her stories about parents separating, drink and drug addiction.
One current prisoner, Francesca, told Kate that she got on drugs and started offending after her parents split up.
At Send, with the Forward Trust program, she has started to resolve many of her issues going back to childhood. “What they have done here has literally changed my life. It’s a miracle,” Francesca said.
She added: “Coming to jail is one of the best things that has ever happened to me.”
The royal mom said, “It’s so often I hear that. Why does it have to get to that point before people receive the help and support?”
She told the women: “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.”
The royal mom of three started her whirlwind tour in Birmingham on Tuesday, heading to MiniBrum at Thinktank Birmingham Science Museum where she was shown around the interactive, mini-city by children who helped design the space. Kate also spoke to parents and carers about her new survey, which asks five questions about the under 5s. The questions include topics such as nature vs. nurture, health and happiness. The results will help guide what is done to help vulnerable children and families for generations to come.
“I’m here today to help launch a survey to hear society’s views about raising the next generation,” she said. “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 lasting change for generations to come.”
On Wednesday, the royal headed to Cardiff, Wales, to attend a baby sensory class at the innovative Ely and Careau Children’s Centre and hear about the support that parents receive. She crouched down to play with the children and checked out an outdoor hut, even helping a girl with sand on her hand get cleaned up.
“I see amazing work you’re doing here in so many areas,” she told workers at the center. “It’s just bringing it to light. The critical work you’re doing has a massive social — and economic — impact later down the years.”
Kate also opened up about how helpful a similar center would have been when she was a new mother to Prince George.
“It’s nice to be back in Wales,” Kate said. “I was chatting to some of the mums. It was the first year and I’d just had George — William was still working with search and rescue — and we came up here and I had a tiny, tiny baby in the middle of Anglesey. It was so isolated, so cut off. I didn’t have any family around, and he was doing night shifts. So…if only I had had a center like this.”
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The new project is the latest development in eight years of work by Princess Kate. In that time she has immersed herself in hearing real-life experiences of children and carers and learning how experiences in early childhood can lie at the root of many of the toughest social challenges people face.
David Holmes, chief executive of the charity Family Action (which Kate joined for some pre-Christmas fun in December), adds, “Every parent, carer and family wants the best for their child and raising the profile of the vital early years in a child’s life is work of national importance. The insight this survey will give the early years sector valuable direction in designing and delivering services and support which reflect what matters most to people.”