RCN supports bill to protect children in Wales from violence

The bill will remove the common law defence of 'reasonable punishment' for anyone who smacks a child

The RCN has welcomed the introduction of a bill that seeks to protect children in Wales from all forms of violence including smacking

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Deputy minister for health and social services Julie Morgan introduced the Children (Abolition of the Defence of Reasonable Punishment) (Wales) Bill to the National Assembly this week.

If passed, the bill would remove the common law defence of ‘reasonable punishment’ so it cannot be used as a defence by anyone in Wales, including visitors, if they are accused of assault or battery against a child.

Protecting children's rights

The RCN is a member of the Children are Unbeatable! Alliance (CUA), a coalition of more than 350 organisations and individuals seeking legal reform to give children protection from violence and assault.

RCN Wales director of nursing Helen Whyley said: ‘RCN Wales welcomes this bill. In the past, parents have always received mixed messages about disciplining children. Discipline and physical punishment are not the same thing.

‘School nurses, health visitors and children’s nurses are best placed to advise parents about managing their children’s behaviour. Children are a vulnerable population and this legislation would protect their rights.’

A positive step

Michelle Moseley, Cardiff University lecturer in primary care and public health nursing and director of learning in practice, as well as winner of the RCN in Wales Nurse of the Year Safeguarding Award 2018, said the bill has been ‘a long time coming’.

She added: ‘Being subjected to a smack or being hit causes distress and if this occurs frequently can have a detrimental effect on the development of children emotionally and physically.

‘This is very much supported by the work around adverse childhood experiences. I welcome the bill and see it as positive step in the protection of children from physical chastisement.'

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