Cymraeg icon Cymraeg

Wales votes to end the physical punishment of children

Cymru yn pleidleisio dros roi diwedd ar gosbi plant yn gorfforol.

Wales has become the latest country to join a select group of around 58 nations around the world to end the physical punishment of children.

In a landmark vote held today (Tuesday 28th January) in the Senedd, Assembly Members voted 36 to 14 to approve the Children (Abolition of Defence of Reasonable Punishment) (Wales) Bill.

The Bill had been led throughout by Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services Julie Morgan, a long-time campaigner for children’s rights and an end to the physical punishment of children.

The new law is expected to come into force in 2022 and will be accompanied by an extensive awareness campaign throughout Wales to inform the public about the changes.

First Minster Mark Drakeford, said: “I’m proud Wales has taken this step and once again put children’s rights at the heart of what we do here in Wales.

“Protecting children and giving them the best start in life should always be our priority.

“Times have changed and there is no place in a modern society for the physical punishment of children. Wales joins Scotland in being the first parts of the UK to see through a positive change to this key piece of legislation.”

Through its journey in the Senedd, a range of organisations, including the Royal College of Paediatrics, Royal College of Nursing, Association of Directors of Social Services, the National Independent Safeguarding Board, Association of Directors of Education and all police forces in Wales, supported the principles of the Bill.

The Bill was also supported by a number of children’s charities, including the NSPCC, Barnardo’s Cymru, Save the Children, Action for Children and Children in Wales. The Children’s Commissioner for Wales has also welcomed the change in the law.

Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services, Julie Morgan said: “Physical punishment has no place here in Wales – there is no such thing as a loving smack and no justifiable reason for a big person to hit a little person. I’m delighted we have voted to change the law to help protect our children and future generations.

“Independent research suggests attitudes to the physical punishment of children are changing – 81% of parents and guardians of young children in Wales disagreed that smacking a naughty child was necessary and 58% of adults in Wales believe it is already against the law to physically punish children.”

“I have longed campaigned for this change in the law and want to thank all those who have supported this legislation over the years.

“The change in law will bring clarity for parents, professionals and children that physically punishing a child is not acceptable in Wales.”

Welcoming the announcement, Professor Sally Holland, Children’s Commissioner for Wales, said: “I’m so pleased, delighted and proud that Wales has joined dozens of other countries around the world to give children the same protection from physical punishment that adults enjoy. It’s never ok to hit a child - congratulations to the Welsh Government and to members of the Senedd who have prioritised children's rights by passing this legislation."

Notes to editors

The First Minister for Wales Mark Drakeford and the Deputy Minister for Health and Social Services Julie Morgan are available for interview. To request an interview contact Sarah Hartman on or call 03000 628 793.

Please see below supportive quotes from various organisations –

 Anna Kettley, Director of Programmes at Unicef UK, said: 
“All forms of violent discipline are a violation of children’s rights as set out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. In the UK there are laws in place to prevent acts of violence being committed against adults, and we think – at the very least – the same legal protections should be in place for children.”

“We are delighted that the Welsh Government is putting in place legislation that will legally protect children from violent forms of discipline; by removing the defence of "reasonable chastisement" or "justifiable assault" when adults have used physical force as a form of discipline on children.

“We worked with the Welsh Government to consult with children on what they wanted from the bill, and are pleased that their voices have been heard and will help create a safer and fairer society for all.”

Cecile Gwilym, Policy and Public Affairs Manager for NSPCC Cymru / Wales: “This is a remarkable achievement which closes an outdated loophole and finally gives children in Wales the same legal protection from assault as adults.

“We have long championed this common-sense change which, thanks to this historic vote, will now deliver fairness and equality for our young people.

“NSPCC Cymru / Wales thanks Assembly Members for listening and making a decision that finally ends the legally-sanctioned physical punishment of our children.

“We will continue to work with the Welsh Government as this change is implemented and the archaic defence of reasonable punishment is ultimately consigned to history.”

 Brigitte Gater, Action for Children’s National Director, Wales said: ‘We are delighted Welsh Government has finally removed the defence of reasonable punishment that will give equal protection from physical punishment to children.  This legislation greatly improves children’s rights by prohibiting the use of physical or corporal punishment.  Action for Children Wales greatly welcomes joining Scotland in this move and fervently hopes Northern Ireland and England will also remove this damaging and outdated defence from their legislation.’

Catriona Williams OBE Chief Executive of Children in Wales said: “Children in Wales very much welcomes today’s announcement which has been a long time coming.  Over 50 countries have introduced the removal of the defence of reasonable punishment successfully.  

Ensuring that the law does not excuse or enable physical punishment of children is a human rights obligation and the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has repeatedly recommended this action.

The leading organisations supporting parents and families, as well as child protection agencies, consider such a change to be helpful to parents as well as to their own work of protecting the most vulnerable children as it provides clarity for all and supports positive parenting methods.”

Kate Fallon, General Secretary of the AEP

 “The Association of Educational Psychologists would like to congratulate the Welsh Government on the passing of this historic legislation. Educational psychologists have believed for many years that the physical punishment of children is detrimental to their physical and mental wellbeing. Our work on behaviour with parents focuses on promoting loving and positive approaches towards supporting and teaching their children without the use of any physical punishment from our experience most parents already raise their children without the use of physical punishment. A full ban has already been implemented in 60 countries so it is only right that we amend legislation to be in-keeping with modern standards. The UK Government should now follow in the footsteps of the Welsh Government and bring forward a UK-wide ban on the defence of reasonable punishment.”

Dr Rowena Christmas, Fellow of the Royal College of General Practitioners (FRCGP) said: “The Royal College of General Practitioners Wales warmly welcome the legislation. The evidence is absolutely compelling that physically disciplining a child can be harmful to the wellbeing of both child and parent, but that it offers no benefit that cannot be gained from another method such as timeout or withdrawal of privileges.”