Government rejected calls to boycott smacking children in England

Claiming children are already protected by the law, the UK government have rejected calls to ban smacking them in England.

In March 2022, a new law was introduced to ban ‘reasonably punishing’ children in Wales and since the news broke the government in England have faced an increased number of calls from children’s charities such as Barnardo’s and the NSPCC to follow suit.

photo of bear plush toy on pavement

However, authorities have drawn upon The Children Act that was launched in 2004 which states it’s unlawful to assault a child in a way that causes actual or grievous bodily harm, or with child cruelty. However, it is still illegal for a parent or carer to discipline a child physically if it’s considered to be a ‘reasonable’ punishment.

According to the most recent data from Unicef, a charity dedicated to helping the most disadvantaged children and adolescents, an estimated 300 million children aged between two and four worldwide experience violent discipline each year, and 250 million are ‘punished by physical means’.

The NSPCC, the UK’s leading children’s charity, has called upon the government to ‘put [the] wellbeing of children first’, and Barnardo’s, another leading UK children’s charity, has said axing physical punishment brings ‘significant benefits to families.’

Despite these demands however, the government has rejected the idea of making physical punishment against the law, arguing that parents and carers should be trusted to discipline their children – this was first reported by the BBC.

Although, last year the NSPCC reported that the police made almost 245,000 referrals to social services for domestic abuse in 2020/21, suggesting that thousands of children aren’t safe under the care of their households. The data shows that police in England and Wales made an average 669 child protection referrals.

Against this backdrop, the news of the government failing to support a child smacking ban has come during National Child Abuse Prevention Month, which occurs every April.

The theme for this year is ‘Doing Things Differently: Moving From the Challenge to the Change’, as the government’s child welfare team are calling on people to consider what they could be doing differently to alert people to the cause and how they can save children from as much harm as possible.

Image: Trym Nilsen


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