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Thursday, 8 November, 2001, 15:07 GMT
Head to head: Smacking
Children playing
Are children sufficiently protected?
The government's refusal to ban the smacking of children has angered welfare groups.

But ministers claim to have public support and say that a law would not necessarily improve parenting.

So the responsibility remains with the courts to decide the reasonable limits of parental force, although in Scotland there is set to be a ban for smacking youngsters under three.

Mary Marsh, director of the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, and Norman Wells, spokesman for Family Youth Concern, give their views.

Mary Marsh, NSPCC Director

"We must protect children and support parents.

"This announcement does neither and is a step backwards for child protection.
Mary Marsh
Mary Marsh

"It is scandalous that the government has ignored the view of virtually every child protection and health professional in the country.

"The Dickensian idea of reasonable chastisement has no place in a modern civilised society.

"Children should enjoy the same legal protection from being hit as that afforded to adults. Anything less puts children at risk.

"By failing to meet even the minimum standard set by the Scottish Executive, the government is sending a dangerous message to parents that it was acceptable to hit children - and even babies and toddlers.

"By ducking a law against hitting children and not investing heavily in public education, the government has dealt a cruel blow to child protection and misread the public mood.

The government has dealt a cruel blow to child protection and misread the public mood

Mary Marsh

"Parents are prepared for legal reform, but also want help and advice.

"Children have been betrayed. In 1998, the European Court unanimously found our law fails to protect children and the Government promised to change the law to provide 'better protection'.

Now, three years later, it decides to do nothing."

Norman Wells, Family Youth Concern

"The government is right not to dictate to parents how they bring up their children and to resist the one-size-fits-all approach so beloved of children's rights lobbyists.

The overwhelming majority of children do not need to be protected from their parents

Norman Wells
Family Youth Concern

"A number of false assumptions are frequently made about physical correction and emotive words do not assist rational debate.

"Many parents use occasional physical correction as a positive disciplinary tool in the context of a warm, caring relationship in which the child is valued and cherished.

"In many situations it is arguably a more kind and merciful response than other approaches which may be more drawn-out or risk causing emotional damage.

Increased harm

"It is alarming that groups such as the NSPCC are actively seeking to criminalise good parents who use physical correction in a loving and responsible way.

"Not only would this cause untold misery to the children in those families, but the misuse of child protection resources would expose genuinely abused children to increased risk of harm.

"Even those parents who do not personally support smacking are largely in agreement that this is not a matter to be addressed by legislation.

"The prospect of court hearings, care proceedings and case conferences which would inevitably follow a smacking ban would be infinitely more damaging to a child than a disciplinary smack.

"The overwhelming majority of children do not need to be protected from their parents, who know well enough the difference between moderate physical correction and child abuse.

"Rather, they need protection from overzealous social workers intent on imposing an unproven philosophy on every family by force of law."

See also:

06 Sep 01 | Broadband
Scots parents face new smacking ban
11 Sep 01 | Talking Point
Is it right to ban smacking?
20 Sep 01 | UK
Stepmother 'loved Lauren'
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