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Removal of 'Reasonable Chastisement' defence closer in Wales

The implementation of the removal of the defence of ‘Reasonable Chastisement’ has taken a step forward in the National Assembly.

A National Assembly Committee Stage 1 report has been released following public consultations, including evidence from BASW Cymru’s National Director, detailing a number of recommendations in how the bill could be best introduced.

The Committee presented a number of ‘views on the general principles of the bill’, including:

  • An important part of our work has been to hear from those working on the front line, delivering services and having a statutory responsibility to protect children and act in their best interest. We acknowledge that the majority of individuals who responded to our consultation in a personal capacity did not support the general principles of this Bill.
  • The majority of responses from individuals have focused on how removing the defence of reasonable punishment will impact on parents. On balance, the majority of our Committee believes there is a strong argument that this Bill will reduce the risk of potential harm to children and young people. We are not convinced that there is a potential for high numbers of prosecutions as a result of this Bill.
  • Without exception, they have told us that this Bill will improve their ability to protect children living in Wales because it will make the law clear. We have been told that, as a result, this will help them better protect children, including those at the “hard end” of the child protection system. Professionals told us that this Bill will make a significant difference because it provides a clear line for them and, importantly, a clear boundary that parents, children and the wider public can clearly understand.

BASW Cymru were pleased to be invited to respond to the Consultation on the ‘Abolition of the Defence of Reasonable Chastisement Bill’ and give oral evidence to the Children, Young People and Education Committee, in the Senedd.

The abolition of the defence of ‘Reasonable Chastisement’ would simply bring children’s safeguarding into line with adults, providing them with equal protection from assault under the law.

The current ‘Reasonable Chastisement’ law is shamefully at odds with the Welsh Governments more modern and progressive policies. It is also counter to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which seeks to provide children with the same rights as adults to “have the right to be protected from being hurt and mistreated, physically and mentally”.

A total ban on the physical chastisement of children is not only essential to protect the safety of children, but also to offer parents and those in loco parentis, a clear and unambiguous understanding of how they can discipline their children under the law, unlike the current system.

BASW Cymru takes the firm stance that the physical chastisement of children is not in anyone’s best interests. Evidence provided by NSPCC Scotland found that “The international evidence could not be clearer – physical punishment has the potential to damage children and carries the risk of escalation into physical abuse.”

Allison Hulmes, BASW Cymru National Director, said: “BASW Cymru supports the abolition of the Defence of Reasonable Chastisement it is unthinkable in modern Britain that children, who are the most vulnerable in our society, have less protection under the law than adults.

“The scope of the defence has already been limited. Abolishing this outdated law will provide clarity to parents and social workers alike.

We are under no illusion as an Association that legislation would immediately solve this issue, but it will allow the facilitation of cultural change as seen with the smoking ban and seatbelt laws, which with legislation, has led to the changing of cultural norms.”

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