Ban on smacking children moves a step closer in Wales
Parents are to be banned from being able to smack their children under new legislation being introduced in Wales.
The Welsh Government will introduce the Children’s Bill today to the National Assembly, it aims to end the physical punishment of children.
If the Bill is passed by the National Assembly for Wales, parents and other adults acting in a parental capacity will no longer be able to physically punish children – children will have the same protection from physical punishment as adults.
The Bill will do this by abolishing the common law defence of reasonable punishment so that any adult acting in a parental capacity cannot use it as a defence if accused of assault or battery against a child – meaning they can no longer legally physically punish a child.
This builds on the Welsh Government’s commitment to children’s rights under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services Julie Morgan said:
“We are sending a clear message that the physical punishment of children is not acceptable in Wales.
What may have been deemed as appropriate in the past is no longer acceptable. Our children must feel safe and be treated with dignity.”
The legislation will be accompanied by an awareness-raising campaign and support for parents. It aims to help eliminate the use and tolerance of physical punishment of children in Wales.
Research published last year suggests attitudes to the physical punishment of children are changing. It found 81% of parents of young children in Wales disagreed that “it is sometimes necessary to smack a naughty child” – a significant increase from 71% in 2015.
The Parental Attitudes Towards Managing Young Children’s Behaviour 2017 survey also found only 11% of parents with young children reported they had smacked their children in the last six months as a way of managing their behaviour, half that in 2015 at 22%.
The Deputy Minister added:
“More than 50 nations across the world have already responded to the international call to end the physical punishment of children.
As one of the most progressive nations in the world when it comes to promoting children’s rights, I am proud this Welsh Government is legislating to bring an end to the physical punishment of children in Wales, further protecting children’s rights.
As the international community commemorates the 30th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child this year, it is very fitting that Wales is taking this significant step in expressing our country’s commitment to protecting children’s rights.”
The Bill as part of a much wider package of support for children and their parents. This includes:
The Parenting: Give It Time campaign, which is designed to help parents do the best job they can, providing positive parenting tips and information;
Access to a range of services to promote positive parenting, delivered through the NHS, education services, social services, Flying Start, Families First and the third sector.
Welcoming the announcement, Professor Sally Holland, Children’s Commissioner for Wales, said:
There’s nothing reasonable about physically punishing a child. This Bill sends a clear signal that Wales is a country which protects children; a country which will afford children equal protection from physical punishment as adults; a country which promotes children’s rights.
“This positive development is about removing a legal loophole to reflect what the vast majority of us parents believe: that physically punishing a child is no longer acceptable, anywhere.”
Viv Laing, Head of Policy at NSPCC Cymru said:
“It’s wrong that children in Wales have less protection from assault and that a legal defence which does not exist when an adult is hit can be used to justify striking a child.
We have long campaigned for equal protection for children and we strongly believe a change in the law is a common-sense move. Closing this loophole brings Wales in line with dozens of countries across the world and is simply about fairness and equality for our children.”
In response to the move, Professor Russell Viner, President of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), said:
“When a parent raises a hand to a defenceless child – whether that’s a smack, slap or another physically harmful behaviour – they have lost control.
Research tells us that children who are physically punished are more likely to have poorer mental health and physical well-being and when they grow up, are more likely to engage in self-destructive or antisocial behaviour. Hurting a child isn’t acceptable and it is a form of child abuse.
It’s time to change to the law to make it clear that physical punishment is unacceptable and we’re glad to see Welsh Government wants to give children the same protection as adults.”
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