Parents should not be able to inflict even mild smacks on their children, says a report from the Commission on Families and the Wellbeing of Children.
The independent commission, established by the National Family and Parenting Institute and the children’s charity NCH, wants children the have the same protection from being hit as adults. It said that smacking was a very unreliable disciplinary tool and was often resorted to because a parent was angry or stressed.
The report also recommended that children under 12 should be not be held responsible for any sort of criminal behaviour, and that punishing parents for their children’s crimes should be “the exception rather than the rule”.
The commission wants the children’s commissioner Al Aynsley-Green to have an extended role and to monitor the impact of marketing, commercial regulation, housing and transport on children’s welfare.
It also called for parents to be given guidance on when children can be left alone at home, as well as for an overall governmental review of parental responsibilities.
The leading child psychiatrist Professor Michael Rutter, who chaired the commission, said that while the state should adopt an approach of “minimum enforceable intervention”, it also needs to provide “extensive support” to allow families to carry out their responsibilities more effectively.