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Wales will today take the next step towards protecting children’s’ rights by introducing legislation to end the physical punishment of children.

First published:
25 March 2019
Last updated:

This was published under the 2016 to 2021 administration of the Welsh Government

The Welsh Government has today (25 March) introduced the Children (Abolition of Defence of Reasonable Punishment) (Wales) Bill to the National Assembly. 

If the Bill is passed by the National Assembly for Wales, parents and other adults acting in a parental capacity will no longer be able to physically punish children – 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 – meaning they can no longer legally physically punish 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.

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.

Research published last year suggests attitudes to the physical punishment of children are changing. It found 81% of parents of young children in Wales disagreed that “it is sometimes necessary to smack a naughty child” – a significant increase from 71% in 2015. 

The Parental Attitudes Towards Managing Young Children's Behaviour 2017 survey also found only 11% of parents with young children reported they had smacked their children in the last six months as a way of managing their behaviour, half that in 2015 at 22%.

The Deputy Minister added:

“More than 50 nations across the world have already responded to the international call to end the physical punishment of children. 

“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 Bill as part of a much wider package of support for children and their parents. This includes:

  • the Parenting: Give It Time campaign, which is designed to help parents do the best job they can, providing positive parenting tips and information
  • access to a range of services to promote positive parenting, delivered through the NHS, education services, social services, Flying Start, Families First and the third sector.

Welcoming the announcement, Professor Sally Holland, Children’s Commissioner for Wales, said:

“There’s nothing reasonable about physically punishing a child. This Bill sends a clear signal that Wales is a country which protects children; a country which will afford children equal protection from physical punishment as adults; a country which promotes children’s rights. 

“This positive development is about removing a legal loophole to reflect what the vast majority of us parents believe: that physically punishing a child is no longer acceptable, anywhere.