Wales politics

Smacking ban: More support for parents in Wales 'vital'

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Media captionWe spoke to two parents in Cardiff with different views

A major publicity campaign and much more support for parents will be vital if the smacking of children is banned in Wales, according to a group of AMs.

A bill removing "reasonable punishment" as a defence has been backed by the assembly's education committee.

If AMs pass the legislation, children will have the same legal protection from physical punishment as adults.

But the committee says much more needs to be done to help all families with the "challenges that parenting brings".

The legislation would mean a parent or guardian could not use the defence if accused of assault or battery against a child.

But two Conservative members of the committee oppose the bill.

Public opinion on a smacking ban is divided, according to a public consultation carried out last year.

The Children, Young People and Education Committee says a "wide ranging awareness raising campaign about what this bill will do" is vital if the bill is to benefit children and their families.

The AMs also says "universal support" must be available to parents across Wales.

"Much more needs to be done to help all families with the inevitable challenges that parenting brings," the AMs said.

The committee heard from people working on the front line with responsibility for protecting children, including police, the Crown Prosecution Service, social services, teacher representatives and health professionals including GPs, nurses, health visitors, paediatricians and psychiatrists.

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Media captionMandy Jones AM previously argued against the Welsh Government's proposed smacking ban

"Without exception, these front line professionals have told us that this bill will improve their ability to protect children living in Wales because it will make the law clear," committee chair, Labour AM Lynne Neagle, said.

"Professionals also 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."

The two committee members opposing the bill are Conservative assembly members Suzy Davies and Janet Finch-Saunders.

When the Welsh Government introduced the legislation to the assembly in March, Ms Finch-Saunders told AMs, "I certainly don't believe that this institution, or the Welsh Government, should seek to criminalise our families, or our parents."

Opinion divided

The Welsh Government has said the bill builds on its commitment to children's rights under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

But a consultation it conducted last year found opinion was divided.

Of 1,738 people and organisations who responded, 50.3% thought it would protect children's rights but 48.1% thought it would not.

AMs will debate the merits of the bill in the autumn.

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