The Duchess of Cambridge is launching a campaign to help children failed by ‘Broken Britain’.
Kate believes the right support, from birth, can help disadvantaged youngsters reach their potential.
She is bringing together experts from academia, education, health and other fields to work on how to help families tackle anti-social behaviour, addiction and mental health.
The subject is politically fraught, with some blaming Broken Britain on parents and others blaming budget cuts. But sources say the 36-year-old duchess is determined to push ahead because she sees it as potentially as big an issue as climate change.
‘This is a lifelong project,’ said one royal source. ‘She is looking at what she can do over the next five, ten, 15, 20 years. She wants to be able to look back and see what difference has been made. That’s what her position in public life allows her to do.’
Researchers have highlighted the importance of early intervention and how children from disadvantaged backgrounds who do not receive the right help at school age can suffer lifelong problems.
Education secretary Damian Hinds and Ofsted chief Amanda Spielman have both spoken recently of the need to help children who are not taught basic skills by their parents.
If youngsters have limited vocabulary and are not toilet-trained when they start school, they are already behind their peers and many never catch up.
The duchess’s initiative, which will be launched in the new year, is a major solo move. Until now she has worked on campaigns alongside her husband William and brother-in-law Harry.
By seizing on an issue she wants to campaign about for the rest of her life, she is following in the footsteps of Prince Charles’s decades-long campaign to highlight environmental issues.
She insists she will steer clear of public policy, instead using her ‘convening power’ to bring together experts, charities and academics in the field under the umbrella of the Royal Foundation, the charity for the younger royals.
The findings will be published by Kensington Palace next year.
According to sources, Kate has acknowledged in private that her detractors are likely to question what she, as a privately-educated and extremely privileged young woman, could possibly know about poverty and lack of family cohesion.
She has often spoken of how lucky she feels to be part of a close and loving family who have always supported her.
But she maintains that it is her duty as a member of the Royal Family to use her position to look at fundamental issues affecting the nation on a long-term basis.
Last year the Duchess visited the Reach Academy in west London as patron of Place2Be.
The charity provides support to 282 schools around the UK, promoting good mental health and wellbeing.
She has spent her maternity leave following the birth of third child Louis investigating ways to help vulnerable youngsters.
In a speech in March, she said: ‘We all know how important childhood is, and how the early years shape us for life.
‘We also know how negative the downstream impact can be, if problems emerging at the youngest age are overlooked, or ignored. It is therefore vital that we nurture children through this critical, early period.
‘At what stage in a child’s development could we, or should we, intervene, to break the inter-generational cycle of disadvantage?
One source said Kate had been ‘immersing herself’ in her work over recent months, and could often be seen sitting at home with ‘mountains of paperwork’.
‘She is getting to know her subject really well as she knows how difficult it can be for someone from the Royal Family to talk about issues like this. People will often accuse them of being “preachy” or judgemental,’ the source said.
‘But she has spent the past few years meeting hundreds of people struggling with mental health issues and addiction, and it all seems to come back to childhood.’
Kate has been seen only a handful of times since the birth of Prince Louis in April. ‘She has been working hard behind the scenes, nonetheless,’ one said.
I applaud the Duchess of Cambridge for her efforts to make this a lifelong project. It is hard enough to become a parent and hard for children to be kids if they have worries about their parents. Taken the pressure off and letting people know there is help out there. It’s difficult for a bright child to nurtured in a household with addiction problems. I wish her the best of luck, and I know, in my heart she will be successful.