The Memo: A slap on the wrist for smacking in England

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A slap on the wrist for smacking in England

Charity Agasaro – 24 April 2023

In Wales, Scotland and Jersey any type of corporal punishment is illegal. Now, the NSPCC and Barnardo's say England must follow suit.

In 2022, Childline reported delivering close to 900 counselling sessions to children who were dealing with physical punishment. These figures come after the UK government recently rejected the NSPCC and Barnardo's request to prohibit the physical punishment of children nationally. Currently, all kinds of corporal punishment such as smacking, hitting, slapping and shaking are illegal in Wales and Scotland. However, a department of education spokesperson recently maintained that the government already has laws in place to protect children from violence.

The Children Act 2004 made it illegal to assault a child in a way that causes bodily harm. However, due to a legal defence known as reasonable chastisement, parents and carers can still hit children. Organizations and individuals in favour of changing the law argue that if it’s unlawful to assault an adult, the same should apply to children. They also highlight that the removal of physical punishment is beneficial to families because it nurtures safe environments.  However, for individuals such as the previous education secretary, Nadhim Zahawi, who agree with the government’s decision, they contend that parents should be trusted and entitled to discipline their children.