Behind the headlines

After years of controversy over whether childminders should have
the right to smack children in their care, new government guidance
has brought them into line with other child care providers and

The alleged right of childminders to smack their charges has always
been opposed to the spirit of the Children Act 1989, but was
famously upheld by the High Court in 1994 when it endorsed a Sutton
childminder who wished to be able to smack children placed in her
care by their parents. From September, the new standards for
childminders will say that they must not smack children in their
care or smoke in front of them. The attitude of the courts appears
to have been dictated by pragmatism rather than principle and, in
relation to parental smacking, they have consistently allowed
“reasonable chastisement”. According to Department of Health
figures, 40 per cent of four-year-olds and a quarter of
seven-year-olds are smacked more than once a week.

Bill Badham, development officer, National Youth

“Is the government’s announcement to stop childminders hitting
children a cause for rejoicing? Well, at least the outrageous
defence of ‘reasonable chastisement’ no longer exists – except for
parents, who retain their right to hit and hurt their children in
ways that would lead to prosecution were the victims adults. And
adults must stop trivialising this by talking of ‘smacking’. ‘A
smack is parents trying to hit you, but instead of calling it a hit
they call it a smack,’ said one five-year-old. The NYA backs the
Children are Unbeatable campaign – by parents as well as by

Karen Squillino, primary prevention co-ordinator,

“The new government standards go some way to bringing childminding
into line with other child care providers. I am in total agreement
with the smacking and smoking bans. The issue for me is the initial
and ongoing training that childminders receive. If the idea is to
recruit and retain more childminders then they will have to be
offered quality training in child development, protection and play.
In addition to this, mechanisms for formal supervision and support
need to be made a requirement.”

Julia Ross, executive director for health and social care,
London Borough of Barking and Dagenham

“I am delighted with the government’s introduction of new standards
for childminders and especially that they include the ban on
smacking. This is about better care for children and higher
standards for childminders and not about any ideology.”

Felicity Collier, chief executive, Baaf Adoption and

“Of course this is progress and must be welcomed – however, it
risks causing greater confusion. Is it really tenable to tell a
childminder that they can hit their own child but not the child
they are minding? I for one would not want my child to witness this
any more than wanting them to be physically chastised – the
evidence for a ban is overwhelming and this suggests a fudged
compromise because it is politically too risky. If our Prime
Minister can take on public opinion over Iraq, couldn’t he do the
same for our children?”

Phil Frampton, national chairperson, Care Leavers

“The ban is a welcome, if belated, step forward by the government.
No professionals in child care should use violence or the threat of
it as an excuse to discipline children or young people. But if the
government is to be consistent it should also ban all adults, even
parents, from smacking children. Children are not property and
should have an equal right to live without violence as adults.”

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