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Wales votes to end the physical punishment of children

New law is expected to come into force in 2022

Wales has become the latest country to join a group of around 58 nations around the world to end the physical punishment of children.

In a vote held in the Senedd, Assembly Members voted 36 to 14 to approve the Children (Abolition of Defence of Reasonable Punishment) (Wales) Bill.

The Bill is now in the four week period (28 January – 25 February 2020) during which, the Counsel General or the Attorney General may refer the question whether the Bill, or any provision of the Bill, would be within the Assembly's legislative competence to the Supreme Court for decision (section 112 of the Government of Wales Act). Thereafter the Presiding Officer is expected to submit the Bill for Royal Assent.

The Bill had been led throughout by Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services Julie Morgan, a long-time campaigner for children's rights and an end to the physical punishment of children.

The new law is expected to come into force in 2022 and will be accompanied by an extensive awareness campaign throughout Wales to inform the public about the changes.

Through its journey in the Senedd, a range of organisations, including the Royal College of Paediatrics, Royal College of Nursing, Association of Directors of Social Services, the National Independent Safeguarding Board, Association of Directors of Education and all police forces in Wales, supported the principles of the Bill. It was also supported by a number of children's charities, including the NSPCC, Barnardo's Cymru, Save the Children, Action for Children and Children in Wales. The Children's Commissioner for Wales has also welcomed the change in the law.

Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services Julie Morgan said:

"Physical punishment has no place here in Wales – there is no such thing as a loving smack and no justifiable reason for a big person to hit a little person. I'm delighted we have voted to change the law to help protect our children and future generations.

"Independent research suggests attitudes to the physical punishment of children are changing – 81 per cent of parents and guardians of young children in Wales disagreed that smacking a naughty child was necessary and 58 per cent of adults in Wales believe it is already against the law to physically punish children.

"I have longed campaigned for this change in the law and want to thank all those who have supported this legislation over the years.

"The change in law will bring clarity for parents, professionals and children that physically punishing a child is not acceptable in Wales."

Welcoming the announcement, Professor Sally Holland, Children's Commissioner for Wales, said:

"I'm so pleased, delighted and proud that Wales has joined dozens of other countries around the world to give children the same protection from physical punishment that adults enjoy. It's never ok to hit a child - congratulations to the Welsh Government and to members of the Senedd who have prioritised children's rights by passing this legislation."

For the Bill, click here. For background information about the Bill, produced by the Government, click here.