This week, Welsh Government took the next step towards protecting children’s rights by introducing legislation to end the physical punishment of children.
The Children (Abolition of Defence of Reasonable Punishment) (Wales) Bill has been put before the National Assembly and, if passed, parents and other adults acting in a parental capacity will no longer be legally able to physically punish children – meaning 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.
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.
“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 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.
Responding to the introduction of the legislation this week, ADSS Cymru All-Wales Heads of Children's Services Lead, Marian Parry Hughes said:
"We recognise that this is an emotive issue, which arouses strong feelings.
"Rational people disagree as to whether, as a matter of political judgment, it is right or wise to use the criminal law to prohibit the smacking of children.
"Nonetheless, it is evident that a general consensus has emerged across the political divide that the clause restricting the scope of the ‘reasonable punishment’ defence in the Children Act 2004, does require change to ensure there is complete compliance, in both principle and in spirit, of the obligations placed on all legislatures in the UK under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
"Legislation is just one part of the wide-ranging action the Welsh Government has taken, in collaboration with its partners in local government, to support parents to give their children the best start in life.
"As the organisation that represents the leaders of social services in Wales, ADSS Cymru’s members advocate, on a daily basis, the need for preventative or targeted interventions to assist families who may require additional support to implement positive parenting techniques.
"We believe that these supportive interventions have enabled a shift in culture and has allowed such families to develop the confidence and knowledge to manage difficult child behaviors in a controlled way without resorting to physical punishment."