Inadequate legal protection from physical punishment in the home is expected to be one of the main concerns of a United Nations report to be published on Friday 4 October.
The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child will list the areas where the Government is out of step with the spirit of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which the UK ratified in 1991.
About the NSPCC
The NSPCC (National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children) is the UK's leading charity specialising in child protection and the prevention of cruelty to children. Founded in 1889 by the Reverend Benjamin Waugh, the NSPCC is the only UK children's charity with statutory powers that enable it to take action to safeguard children at risk of abuse.
The NSPCC's mission is to end cruelty to children. Our vision is a society in which all children are loved, valued and able to fulfil their potential. In other words, a society that will not tolerate child abuse - whether sexual, physical, emotional, or neglect.
The NSPCC's core values are based on the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child. They are: Children must be protected from all forms of violence and exploitation
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- Everyone has a responsibility to support the care and protection of children
- We listen to children and young people, respect their views and respond to them directly
- Children should be encouraged and enabled to fulfil their potential
- We challenge inequalities for children and young people
- Every child must have someone to turn to
In its last report, in 1995, the UN Committee criticised the UK law of 'reasonable chastisement', stating that it 'does not appear to be compatible with the provisions and principles of the UN Convention'.
The NSPCC believes that the 1860 law of 'reasonable chastisement' allows some parents to hit their children harshly and frequently with impunity and sends out a dangerous message to all parents that it is acceptable to hit their children.
In 1998, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that UK law does not protect children adequately. However, last November the Department of Health decided not to change the law in England and Wales against the advice of child protection professionals.
NSPCC Director Mary Marsh said: 'Hitting children is incompatible with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The UN's report will add to the growing pressure on the Government to rethink its inaction over protecting children from being hit.'
The NSPCC and the 350 organisations in the Children Are Unbeatable Alliance want the law changed to give children the same protection from being hit as adults - no more, no less. Such a change in the law should go hand in hand with mass public education about positive and more effective ways of bringing up children, including extensive provision of parenting support programmes.
A MORI survey for the NSPCC in February this year found that, provided parents were not prosecuted for 'trivial smacks', a majority (58 per cent) of people in England and Wales support changing the law to give children protection from being hit.
For further information contact NSPCC media office on 0207 825 7416 or 2713
Notes to editors
Article 19 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child states that Governments should 'take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse, neglect of negligent treatment, maltreatment or exploitation, including sexual abuse, while in the care of parent, legal guardian or any other person who has the care of the child'.
Children are protected from being hit by law in Germany, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Austria, Norway, Croatia, Cyprus, Latvia and Israel. The most recent country to ban physical punishment was Germany in 2000 and the first was Sweden in 1979.
Seven in ten social workers say that 'the existence of "reasonable chastisement" in law sends a message to abusive and potentially abusive parents that persistent and harsh physical punishment is acceptable'. (Survey of NSPCC child protection professionals, December 2001.)
A majority of parents (57 per cent) say that physical punishment is the wrong way to discipline children. More than three quarters of parents who have used physical punishment (79 per cent) feel upset afterwards. (MORI for the NSPCC, May 2002.)