New legislation to introduce a ‘smacking ban’ and stop the physical punishment of children in Wales, has moved forward.
The Welsh Government has introduced the Children (Abolition of Defence of Reasonable Punishment) Bill to the National Assembly.
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 abolish 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.
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.
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.”
Research published in 2018 suggests that attitudes to the physical punishment of children are changing. It found 81 per cent of parents of young children in Wales disagreed that “it is sometimes necessary to smack a naughty child” – a significant increase from 71 per cent in 2015.
The Parental Attitudes Towards Managing Young Children’s Behaviour 2017 survey also found only 11 per cent 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 per cent.
A consultation carried out in Wales between January and April 2018 found that plans to introduce a smacking ban had split opinion; with 50.3 per cent of participants agreeing with the statement that the legislative proposal will achieve the aim of protecting children’s rights.
48.1 per cent of respondents disagreed with the statement and 1.5 per cent said they didn’t know.
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.”
Mike Penrose, executive director at Unicef UK, added: “In the UK children should have the legal right to be protected from all forms of harm, as set out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. But unfortunately, this is still not the case.
“As we approach the 30th anniversary of the UNCRC, we fully support the Welsh Government’s efforts to put in place this legislation which will remove the defence of reasonable punishment and prevent the use of corporal punishment in the home.
“The Welsh Government consulted children on what they wanted, and we’re delighted that they are listening to the voices of children and young people on this important issue, which will help to create a safer and fairer society for all its children and young people.”
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