University to host debate on Welsh Government plans to ban smacking

Swansea University is to host a public debate this week focusing on Welsh Government plans to launch a public consultation on removing the defence of ‘reasonable chastisement’ allowing parents who use mild forms of physical punishment to be charged with common assault.

Date: Wednesday 25 October

Time: 18:00—19:30

Location: Room West, Fulton House, Singleton Park Campus, Swansea SA2 8PP

The free event features the following speakers:

  • Dr Ashley Frawley who is a senior lecturer in sociology & social policy and programme and director of BSc Social Sciences at Swansea University
  •  Ronan Lyons who is a Professor of public health at Swansea University,  director of the National Centre for Population Health and Wellbeing Research and trustee of Play Wales
  • Dr Ken McLaughlin who is a senior lecturer in social work, Manchester Metropolitan University and author of Surviving Identity: Vulnerability and the Psychology of Recognition.
  • Vivienne Laing, NSPCC policy and public affairs manager.

The event will be chaired by Kathryn Ecclestone, a Professor of education from the University of Sheffield and author of the forthcoming book, Governing Vulnerable Subjects in a Therapeutic Age.

The debate will examine both sides of the argument: whether smacking is out-dated and corporal punishment should be illegal or whether a ban is unwelcome government intrusion into the private sphere of family life, potentially bringing thousands of families to attention of social services and the law.

Ashley FrawleyEvent organiser Dr Frawley (pictured) said that the event is likely to provoke a lively debate as there is a lot at stake for campaigners on both sides. She said: “Those in favour of a ban point to the need to protect children from ‘assault’ and resulting life-long struggles with mental ill-health. According to clinical psychologist Emma Citron, ‘Smacking is always damaging to a child’s emotional wellbeing’. Critics point to increasing distrust and surveillance of family life, the undermining of parental and adult authority over children, and the conflation of loving parents with ‘child abusers’.”

The debate will include an overview on the situation worldwide while also focussing on the picture in Wales. While over 50 countries have banned smacking, legislation has never been introduced with popular support. In spite of opposition, New Zealand banned smacking in 2007, later ignoring results of a 2009 referendum in which 87% of the population voted to overturn the ban. Welsh popular opinion appears to be following suit with a recent survey indicating 76% opposed the ban. For campaigners, unpopularity is part of the problem. Proponents, including the Welsh Children’s Commissioner, have argued politicians should have the courage to go against popular opinion in order to ‘accelerate a cultural change’ and promote ‘positive parenting’.

Dr Frawley said: “Some commentators worry that discussions of the effectiveness of a parenting style and hyperbolic fears about mental illness or ‘out of control kids’ miss out crucial questions about who precisely decides how children are raised and who ultimately is responsible for family life. Are governments legitimate in acting without a popular mandate when the welfare of children is at stake? Should smacking be considered to be on a par with abuse or violence? In a climate of growing sensitivity to real and potential risks to children, to what extent do we need to give parents the space to raise their children as they see fit?”

To attend the event, please register here