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Overriding parental controls

Source: Gordan Plant via Flickr
Was the Welsh Government right to ban smacking?

by James Wallice

Growing up as a child, my brother and I were often taught that if we misbehaved there would be consequences, a common occurrence in households up and down the country. If you misbehaved, you would receive appropriate punishment. Such punishment ranged from being sent to our rooms, having our pocket money revoked, or in the extreme circumstance, some parents would opt to smack their children. 

Looking back on our childhoods, I can’t remember a single time our parents deemed our behaviour to be so awful they opted to smack us, although it was often used as a threat. However, under last weeks monumental move by the Labour-run Welsh Parliament my mother and father would be held criminally responsible in line with the recently passed ‘Children (Abolition of Defence of Reasonable Punishment) (Wales) Act if they did decide to follow through with their words and smack us. 

“Undoubtedly such interventions will put further strains on already struggling and under-funded social service providers the length and breadth of Wales”

The legislation was brought forward in early 2019 by Julie Morgan AM, the Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services and Assembly Member for Cardiff North, despite protests from the Welsh Conservatives and other third-sector organisations. 

This law sets a dangerous divergence from core criminal law between England and Wales that will undoubtedly see irresponsible and ill-evidenced interventions by social services into the lives of good, hardworking families. Undoubtedly such interventions will put further strains on already struggling and under-funded social service providers the length and breadth of Wales. 

Indeed, this is a leap in the wrong direction for Welsh-only policy that could see families across the country penalised for an act that is deemed as ‘good parenting’, something some students reading this article were undoubtedly subjected to growing up. Yet the Welsh Labour-backed bill will see politicians reach into the private lives of hardworking families in order to ensure we raise our children under the watchful standards of devolved government. 

Ashley Frawley, a sociologist at Swansea University and spokeswoman for the Be Reasonable Wales campaign, highlights the recklessness of the legislation, saying: “The smacking ban is simply bad policy. It will result in highly negative intervention in good families, increased pressure on beleaguered social services departments and will do nothing to help children who are genuinely at risk of abuse.” Once again, we’re seeing a Welsh Labour-run Government plough ahead with legislation that seeks to be nothing but a headline on the BBC News website. 

“This piece of legislation is a dangerous infringement on the lives of diligent and committed parents”

During a debate in the Senedd, Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services, Julie Morgan AM conceded that some parents could be the target of malicious allegations, which would show up on enhanced DBS checks even if proven false, impeding the job prospects of innocent parents across Wales. Indeed, what is clear about this piece of reckless legislation, is that this policy has far-reaching consequences for us all, that will undoubtedly see Welsh Labour infringe on the lives of families in the future. 

Ultimately, this piece of legislation is a dangerous infringement on the lives of diligent and committed parents right across Wales, penalising those who simply seek to give their children the best upbringing they can provide. Yet, unsurprisingly, Welsh Labour seem to think they know better than the 1.3 million households across Wales and so have pushed through a bill that’ll see parents like my own face the full front of the law, simply for reasonably punishing their children.

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