An advertising campaign has been launched to make parents and carers aware that it will be illegal to smack children in Wales within months, with a package of almost £3m announced to help keep people who do use physical punishment out of the courts.
From March it will be illegal for anybody in Wales, including visitors, to use any type of physical punishment such as smacking, hitting, slapping and shaking on children.
The government says the law will give children the same protection from assault as adults by removing an archaic 160-year-old legal defence. To help raise awareness of the legislation, a nationwide multimedia advertising campaign called The Sound of Change is being launched.
The Labour-led government also announced that over four years £2.9m will be available to local authorities in Wales to fund “positive parenting support”. In cases where the police believe it is appropriate to deal with an offence through an alternative to court action, funds from this pot could be used to offer support to help avoid re-offending.
Julie Morgan, deputy minister for social services, said: “This week marks the beginning of our six-month countdown as we move towards the day when children in Wales will have the legal right to be protected from all forms of violence, however minor.
“Our campaign will signpost parents to support [that] we’re already providing, but we have gone a step further and I’m pleased to announce a new funding package for additional tailored parenting support as a rehabilitative alternative to prosecution in cases where the police are involved.
“This support, delivered by local authorities, will be designed to encourage and support parents in adopting positive parenting techniques while making it absolutely clear that the physical punishment of children is unacceptable in all circumstances.”
Sally Holland, the children’s commissioner for Wales, added: “This is landmark legislation for children’s rights in Wales and cannot come soon enough.
The police and crime commissioner for Gwent, Jeff Cuthbert, said: “Policing in Wales welcomes the introduction of the new legislation, which will protect children and young people from physical violence.”
The new law has been criticised by some who believe it will criminalise loving parents.
Simon Calvert, a spokesperson for the Be Reasonable campaign, said: “Only now, when we are just months away from implementing the ban, do they finally drop any pretence that this ban will not criminalise loving parents. They are criminalising smacking by removing the reasonable chastisement defence from parents. Removing the reasonable chastisement defence doesn’t criminalise beating children. That’s already against the law. It criminalises reasonable chastisement.”