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Kate Middleton hid from the rain as she attended the launch of her childhood centre today.

The Duchess of Cambridge arrived in style, wearing a stunning LK Bennett pale blue dress and sheltering under an umbrella outside the London School of Economics.

She spoke to childhood professionals and parents across two sites to mark the launch of The Royal Foundation Centre for Early Childhood.

Kate hopes her drive to tackle issues surrounding poor childhood early development will be taken as seriously as the climate change emergency.

To coincide with the launch, the Centre has published its inaugural report, Big Change Starts Small, which has examined the effect on our economy and society at large on poor development of children.

The Duchess of Cambridge today said it was her conversations with women in prison that partly inspired her work to launch the centre.

Kate Middleton arrived in style for the launch of her childhood centre
(Image: POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

It marks a "milestone" for the duchess – the culmination of 10 years of work carried out by Kate since she married into the royal family.

In the pavilion cafe at Kensington Palace, Kate spoke to three parents she had met previously over the course of the past decade.

The duchess asked for their feedback and whether they had any thoughts of what they thought the centre should be doing.

She also spoke about the vital role that parents and carers will continue to play in shaping her work through the Centre in the years to come, and what she hopes it will be able to achieve for future generations.

Kate spoke with Julie Muir, who has met the duchess twice before at 2015 and 2020 at women’s prison, HMP Send.

The Duchess of Cambridge decided to set up the centre after speaking to women in prison
(Image: PA)

Kate said to Julie: "This started in HMP and hearing your stories. It was these conversations that made me realise how important this was."

Julie Muir, who was in prison as a young woman for drug-related offences but is now Head of Recovery and Housing for The Forward Trust which runs programmes in prisons surrounding addiction, spoke about the impact of the pandemic on families.

Julie said: "The impact on women and children has been so tough. We tried hard to facilitate where possible Skype visits on iPads."

Julie, 40, said of the duchess: "I remember the duchess coming to visit HMP Send on one of her first official visits as a member of the Royal family nine years ago. She really remembers what was said. There was one woman prisoner there whose childhood was one surrounded by drugs and needles. That had a really powerful impact on the duchess.

The royal held a roundtable discussion about children's issues at the London School of Economics today
(Image: PA)

"I feel flattered to be part of the change in the duchess that has helped her refocus her energy on the early years."

Kate also met with Jumaima Koroma, who met the duchess during a September 2019 visit to the family nurse partnership team in Southwark and Ryan-James Smith, a single father who took part in the Tiny Happy People initiative with the BBC.

Single father Ryan-James, 28, a barman from Luton, told the duchess about his battle with depression.

"The duchess doesn’t just ask how my daughter is but also how I am. She understands that to look after the children we also have to look after the parents."

The Duchess of Cambridge has insisted she is not looking for a “quick win” with her early years work but wants to take a “holistic approach” to better prepare the next generation of parents.

Kate wants to see childhood issues treated in the same way as climate change
(Image: Samir Hussein/WireImage)

She said she hoped that her new Centre for Early Childhood could help to make it “more common to speak about emotions and feelings” which would in turn enable adults to better understand how affection affects their own behaviour.

The Duchess, 39, met experts to discuss how to drive awareness of the importance of early childhood.

The one-hour round table discussion was convened to discuss the findings of her new research centre’s inaugural report, Big Change Starts Small.

The Duchess said that as a parent and during pregnancy, there were “many conversations” about physical milestones but little support or guidance beyond “what you can see” – such as the importance of brain development.

She said: “My hope today, through the report and the new centre, is to show that change really needs to happen and the time for action is now.

The duchess hopes her work will bring about a happier healthier world
(Image: ©Karwai Tang)

“I feel this is the social equivalent of climate change, where we have followed the science for many, many years and that is what we have to do with early childhood development if we want by build a happier healthier world.”

The report, written in collaboration with The Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University and the London School of Economic (LSE), found that the failure to tackle early years problems costs an annual £16.13 billion in England alone.

The centre, which was launched today (FRI) and will be based at Kensington Palace, marks the culmination of ten years of work by the Duchess into the critical impact the first five years of life has on society.

Her research has shown that social challenges such as addiction, violence, family breakdown, homelessness and mental health are often rooted in the early years.

The Duchess was joined for the discussion at the LSE by leading academics and practitioners with whom she has worked for many years. Among them were representatives from the Maternal Mental Health Alliance, Mind, Place2Be, the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Future Men.

Dr Guddi Singh, a paediatric registrar at Guy's & St. Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, said the Royal Foundation’s work in the field had proved there was a “big disconnect” just as there had been with climate change.

“The gap between what science knows and what society knows is massive,” she said.

“Parenting hasn't had the elevation that it needs in this country, and in fact in any Western country… It’s about tackling that as an issue.”

Dr Singh added: “In terms of language, I don't think we talked about love enough in this country. I don't think we talk about it openly and without any shame.”

The Duchess agreed, adding: “Speaking about love, in general it’s making it common to speak about emotions and feelings.”
She said that a better understanding of how affection affected behaviour could help society become “more outward looking” and encourage more compassion.

Prof Peter Fonagy, CEO of the Anna Freud National Centre for Children and Families, suggested that the Duchess’s new centre could create a curriculum for secondary schools, while Alison Morton, executive director of the Institute of Health Visiting, said it was about equipping parents to better support their child rather than “sending them off to an expert to be fixed.”

The Duchess was later reunited with parents she has met over the last decade who have helped to shape her understanding of the importance of the early years.

She chatted with them about their experiences at Kensington Palace.