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Smacking children should be banned in England, say UK doctors

The Royal college of Paediatrics and Child Health have hit out with a report warning the government to put a ban in place against parents smacking their children as a form of punishment.  

Hitting a child as punishment is already illegal in Scotland and Wales as well as other countries around the world.  

A review into the RCPCH studies found that causing physical harm to a child by smacking can cause long lasting damage to mental health, wellbeing and does not in fact improve behaviour.  

Although some parents have expressed that they should have a right to choose how they punish their child, the rise of gentle parenting has caused a parental riot on social media, with some wanting to ban the word “naughty”. 

Right now, if a child is smacked or hit in Northern Ireland and England, parents may be able to argue that it was “reasonable punishment” and may avoid breaking the law.  

Joanna Barrett, associate head of policy at the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to children (NSPCC), said: “All children deserve the same protection from assault as adults. Yet in England and Northern Ireland, children continue to be exposed to a legal loophole that can undermine their basic right to protection.

“That’s why we’re calling on political leaders in England and Northern Ireland to commit to bringing an end to physical punishment of children – as the rest of the UK have successfully done.” 

Smacking children was made illegal in Scotland in 2020 and Wales 2022. Although it is too early to find out whether the ban had an impact in the reduction of corporal punishment, countries such as Germany, Sweden and Romania, suggest that changing the law can have a real impact.  

According to a report these countries have seen a mass reduction in the number of children who are being hit at home.  

The UK government told the BBC that they have no plans to change the law on smacking in England and that they would review the impact of law changes in Scotland and Wales. 

A spokesperson of the Department for Education, said: “We are supporting teachers, social workers and all safeguarding professionals to spot the signs of abuse or neglect more quickly.

“Our statutory framework for safeguarding children in England makes it clear what organisations should do to keep children safe.”