NHS: ‘Smacking children will be treated like abuse’

Smacking children will be treated like abuse if the law is changed, the NHS has admitted. While doctors and nurses who smack their children face suspension from their jobs and criminal investigation.

The astonishing admission was revealed in two freedom of Information (FoI) requests from Cwm Taf University Local Health Board and Public Health Wales.

Asked what impact banning smacking would have on the NHS and its staff Cwm Taf University Board, stated: “It is already a statutory duty to report child protection concerns to the Local Authority and if the defence of reasonable chastisement is removed, smacking will become one of those concerns.

It continued: “All allegations of abuse or neglect are investigated by the Local Authority and the Police. The UHB has a duty to co-operate with those investigations. In Cwm Taf all such allegations would be managed via the Multi-Agency Hub (MASH) and the UHB is one of the partner agencies.”

While Public Health Wales said: “In relation to the possible introduction of a smacking ban in Wales following the consultation, any allegations of abuse of any staff in Public Health Wales will be dealt with by following the All Wales Child Protection Procedures (2008) and the All Wales Procedure for NHS Staff to raise Concerns.

“Under the United Nations Charter on the Rights of the Child to which the UK is a signatory all children have the right to life (article 6) and to be protected from abuse (article 19). Article 37 also states that children should not suffer torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

It went on to say: “Staff receive safeguarding training to a level and at a frequency appropriate to their role and any changes to legislation would be included and discussed in that training however staff are aware of their duty to report suspected abuse of a child to the police or social services and of how to get support from within the organisation if they need it in order to do so.”

Dr Ashley Frawley, a spokeswoman for the Be Reasonable campaign, commented: “These freedom of information requests belie the notion that ordinary parents will not be treated like criminals if the law is changed. It reveals that doctors and nurses face suspension and investigation by the police and social services over ordinary parenting techniques – for doing something most people think is reasonable and sometimes necessary. They may also face significant consequences and disruption over allegations, true or not.

“It seems likely that their patients will be treated in the same way, with medical staff being forced to report on anyone suspected of smacking their child, even when there is little, or no evidence. As we have seen in New Zealand this can have dire consequences for families.”

Dr Frawley concluded: “Day by day the case against meddling with the current law gets stronger and stronger. We would urge the Welsh Government to listen carefully to the voices of ordinary parents and the growing volume of evidence that confirms the only sensible law is the one we have – a law that provides strong protection to children, while recognising the unique relationship that mums and dads have with their children. It is time to ditch plans for a ban once and for all.”

Press coverage