Wales has moved a step closer to ending the physical punishment of children – however there are calls to scrap the introduction of the so-called smacking ban.
The Children (Abolition of Defence of Reasonable Punishment) (Wales) Bill achieved another milestone on yesterday by reaching the final stage of Assembly scrutiny.
The Bill now moves to the fourth stage with a debate and final vote on the legislation taking place on Tuesday January 28, this will see Assembly Members vote on whether to pass the Bill.
If the Bill receives Royal Assent, it will become an Act. If the Act comes into force, parents and other adults acting in a parental capacity will no longer be able to rely on the defence of reasonable punishment if accused of assault or battery of a child.
In its journey through the Senedd, evidence has been heard from a range of organisations including the Royal College of Paediatrics, Royal College of Nursing, Association of Directors of Social Services and all police forces in Wales, which support the principles of the Bill.
The Bill has also been supported by a number of children’s charities, including the NSPCC, Barnardo’s Cymru, Save the Children, Action for Children and Children in Wales. The Children’s Commissioner for Wales has also welcomed the move to change the law.
Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services Julie Morgan said: “In my view, changing the law around reasonable punishment is fundamental in a country that believes in children’s rights.
“It’s time for Wales to join more than 55 other nations across the world, including Scotland, to end the physical punishment of children. This law will bring clarity for parents, professionals and children that physically punishing a child is not acceptable in Wales.”
However North Wales Assembly Member Mark Isherwood said a ban is not wanted by the majority, has proved ineffective in countries where smacking is already criminalised, and would criminalise “normal, decent, loving parents who use a smack from time to time”.
He said: “The people behind this Bill appear to live in an unrepresentative ‘Cardiff Bay bubble’, where sitting in judgement on others and deciding what is good for them takes priority over listening to the people they are supposed to represent.
They claim to be protecting children and state that those who disagree with them need “Positive Parenting” courses.
However, the overwhelming majority of parents already know and apply the ‘Positive Parenting’ interventions they advocate, whilst also retaining the option of light smacking in their Positive Parenting toolkit for rare use in times of danger or as a last resort”.
He added: “A recent survey of Welsh Local Councillors found that 7 in 10 are opposed to a smacking ban – including a majority from each of the main parties – and that 9 in 10 say that Councils do not have the resources to cope with one.”
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