Nagalro has joined calls made by the NSPCC and Barnardo’s last March to end corporal punishment for children in England.
Nagalro – the professional association for children’s guardians, family court advisers, and independent social workers – pointed out that the devolved governments in Scotland and Wales have already changed their laws so that all children receive the same level of protection against assault as adults.
In England, however, children may legally be assaulted by their carers so long as there is no discernible physical injury, such as bruising. Nagalro believes that the use of “reasonable punishment” to authorise assaults on children should be consigned to history.
“It is from the same world and mindset that allowed slaves to be beaten by their owners, servants by their masters, and husbands to beat their wives,” said Nagalro. “It is a world in which an individual is reduced to a piece of property.” They continued:
“Despite a wealth of research across the world, we are aware of no studies showing that smacking, spanking, or shaking children enhances the child’s development or physical or mental health.
A child who complies out of fear or pain only learns the power of violence.”
The association pointed out that research studies show that, rather than communicating positive behavioural messages to children subject to corporal punishment, they, and the adults they become, may be aggressive, anti-social, have poor self-esteem, impaired academic achievement and mental health, and a predisposition to violent relationships, including intimate partner violence and the intergenerational transmission of physical punishment as a parenting strategy.
Nagalro also pointed out that on 19th April 1990, the UK signed the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child which requires all signatories to take all measures, including legislative ones, “to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse”.
Despite this clear commitment from government to end corporal punishment in the whole of the UK, children in England are still waiting, they said.
In 2006, the UN Secretary General’s Study on Violence against Children urged states to prohibit all forms of violence against children by 2009. For children in England and Northern Ireland, this has “fallen on deaf ears”.
As well as this, Nagalro reiterated that on 25th September 2015, the UK, together with 192 other members, signed to UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, with Sustainable Development Goal 16.2 calling for the end of all forms of violence against children.
“Sadly, our Government, as recently as April 2023, has rejected any move to bring the law in England into line with Scotland and Wales and in line with its international agreements and legal obligations and to translate their fine words in these international conventions into action,” they concluded.