One year on from the historic law change to end the physical punishment of children, a number of dedicated parenting support packages across Wales are helping to strengthen positive changes to family life and raise awareness of the new legislation.
The new law, which protects children and their rights, came into force in March 2022 and provides children in Wales with the same protection from assault as adults.
Recently published research provides a snapshot of views from early 2022, just before the law came into force. This snapshot shows 71% of parents/carers of children aged seven and under disagreed that it was sometimes necessary to smack a child compared to 63% surveyed in 2021.
The report also found that since 2018 there had been an increase in the level of awareness and support for the law, with 59% of respondents reporting they were in favour of the law change compared to 38% in 2018.
Eligible parents / carers who are found to have broken the law are being given help by parenting professionals as part of an out of court parenting support scheme. The scheme, which is funded by the Welsh Government, helps the parents to avoid reoffending. During the six months following the Act coming into force, there were 55 referrals for out of court parenting support across Wales by the police.
Those working with the parents have hailed the new legislation for the clarity it has provided to the sector and parents on what was previously a grey area regarding the physical punishment of children.
Sue Layton, Chairperson of the National Parenting and Family Support Strategic Leads Network in Wales and Parenting Coordinator for Gwynedd, said:
The new legislation has been invaluable in bringing the impact of physical punishment to the fore and the additional resources provided to local authorities for bespoke parenting support has been welcomed. Lines are not as blurry as before. It’s definite and it’s no longer acceptable to physically punish a child in Wales.
Gwawr Miller, Parenting Support Officer, Children’s Wales Act, Gwynedd Council, added:
We undertook a considerable amount of awareness raising before the law changed as part of our parenting sessions. This enabled us to bring up the topic of physical punishment and make parents aware the law was changing. Since the law came into force, we have been successful in getting parents to reflect on their own behaviour and getting them to focus on other forms of discipline that doesn’t involve physical punishment.
Julie Morgan, Deputy Minister for Social Services, said:
Parenting is not always easy and our focus has been and continues to be positive parenting. Our Parenting. Give it time campaign is a great place for parents to start.
One year on since physical punishment became illegal, I am pleased to see that the support we’re offering to parents is making a real difference. The law was the catalyst the sector needed to be able to provide clarity and practical support and every year that passes more and more children and families will see the benefit of the legislation and the support it has given children’s rights in Wales.