Councils being “left in the dark” over implications of the smacking ban
Freedom of Information requests reveal lack of awareness and preparation.
· Cost of smacking ban to children’s services still ‘unquantified’.
· Consultation shows Govt massively out-of-step with public.
Councils in Wales are being “left in the dark” over the implications of the proposed smacking ban, Freedom of Information responses have shown.
A series of Freedom of Information request responses published by Be Reasonable today demonstrate that councils across Wales have received no information about the policy from the Government – despite fears that children’s services could be inundated with new cases. In addition, several councils admitted that no internal assessment has been carried out.
Asked about the potential impact of banning smacking on social services, Flintshire Council responded: “To date we have received no guidance or policy documents from the Welsh Government.”
Gwynedd’s response stated: “We are unable to answer your request as we have not reviewed our population needs analysis to include this and do not have plans to do so.”
And Bridgend admitted it did not have any idea about the number of additional families it would have to engage with, or the number of extra social workers that would be needed following the introduction of a ban.
Jamie Gillies, a spokesman for the Be Reasonable campaign, commented:
“These are worrying admissions. It seems that councils have been left in the dark over the impact of these changes and have received no information or advice from the Welsh Government about how they should prepare for a smacking ban.
“Council budgets are already stretched. Any change in the law which places an additional burden on local authorities could lead to tough financial decisions and vital services being pared back. Councillors and the public alike deserve to know how their community will be impacted.”
So far, the cost of a smacking ban has been estimated at £3 million, however the Welsh Government has failed to outline the implications of a ban for social work departments. An Explanatory Memorandum for the Government’s Children (Abolition of Defence of Reasonable Punishment) (Wales) Bill describes these as “unquantified”. Mr Gillies continued:
“Many councils admitted that they don’t know how this policy will affect social services departments. This is unsurprising as the Government itself has failed to give any indication of the impact.
“The Government predicts that hundreds of families (548 per year), will be caught out by this change. If I was a social worker, I’d be deeply troubled at the prospect of this ban which could bring many loving families into the remit of social work, and massively increase workloads.
“It can’t be right that this legislation is moving forward with no estimate whatsoever about how children’s services will be impacted. The Children’s Committee recently asked for more clarity on this question and the Government must provide this soon.”
This month it emerged that six in ten responses to a consultation on the smacking Bill by the Children, Young People and Education Committee were against a smacking ban.
An official analysis of the consultation found that opposition is even higher when you consider responses by individuals. Seven in ten individuals who responded to the consultation did not support the Government’s plans.
At its highest, support for the Bill rose to 37 per cent in overall responses and just 29 per cent amongst individuals.
“The vast majority of people in Wales do not want to see a change in the law to criminalise light physical discipline. The Government should save itself, and the public, a lot of bother and ditch this unpopular proposal now.”
For media enquiries, please contact Alistair Thompson on 07970 162 225.
Notes to Editors:
Be Reasonable submitted Freedom of Information requests to the 22 local authorities in Wales at the beginning of July 2019. A response was received from 15 local authorities by 20 August. See: https://www.bereasonable.wales/wp-content/uploads/2019/08/Freedom-of-Information-Responses-Welsh-Counclis_August-2019.pdf
The Be Reasonable campaign is a grassroots coalition of parents, academics and politicians with a single goal: to discourage the Welsh Government from pursuing its pledge to make reasonable chastisement a criminal offence.