Do you hear the sound of change? Wales is outlawing the physical punishment of children
World Children’s Day is observed annually on 20 November to commemorate the 1959 Declaration of the Rights of the Child by the UN General Assembly.
Earlier today the Welsh Government marked the occasion by releasing a video of a girl sending out a firm message that from March next year, any physical punishment of children in Wales will be illegal.
The new law will give children the same protection from assault as adults have, and it will apply to everyone, parents and caregivers – anyone who is responsible for the care of a child – and it will also apply to anyone visiting Wales.
Physical punishment is already illegal in schools, children’s homes, local authority foster care homes and childcare settings.
Tweeting the video today, the Welsh Government said “Do you hear the sound of change? This amazing young lady has a very important message for you all this World Children’s Day. We want the world to know: Wales is outlawing the physical punishment of children”
Do you hear the sound of change?
This amazing young lady has a very important message for you all this #WorldChildrensDay 👇
— Welsh Government #KeepWalesSafe (@WelshGovernment) November 20, 2021
The new law will clarify what has been a ‘grey’ area for some time.
As the law stands in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, it’s illegal for a parent to smack their own child, except where the smacking is “reasonable punishment”.
But without a legal definition of “reasonable punishment” the decision about whether a smack is reasonable or common assault depends on the individual circumstances of each “punishment”.
Under current laws, factors that would be considered include the age of the child and the nature or force of the smack and that “reasonable punishment” would not include anything that left a child with swelling, bruises, cuts or grazes, reddening of the skin, abrasions or a black eye.
Scotland outlawed any type of physical punishment against the child in 2020, declaring: “There is NO legal justification for hitting your child. The defence of ‘reasonable punishment’ that exists in England, Northern Ireland and Wales no longer counts in Scotland.”
Under Scottish law physical punishment was defined as slapping and smacking with a hand or an implement, kicking, shaking or throwing, scratching, pinching, biting, pulling hair or boxing ears,forcing children to stay in uncomfortable positions, burning, scalding or forced ingestion.
From 21 March 2022, the defence of ‘reasonable punishment’ will no longer be available in Wales; all types of physical punishment will be illegal.
Information, advice and support is available for anyone who needs it, to help them find positive ways to manage children’s behaviour and to help avoid such a situation ever happening.
- Parenting. Give it time offers positive parenting practical hints, tips and expert advice to encourage good behaviour from children and alternatives to physical punishment. Their parenting support page offers links to further support and helplines.
- Universal parenting support and advice is provided by midwives, health visitors, GPs and Family Information Services.
- Early help programmes such as Flying Start (if you live in a Flying Start area) and Families First.
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