Nannies and au pairs exempt from change to smacking rules

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Smacking will be banned for all tutors and carers who work with children outside the family, including part-time educational settings, Sunday schools and madrassas, following a review.

However, the ban does not include nannies, au pairs or babysitters, as they are considered part of the family or household.

The Government has accepted the recommendations made in the report by Sir Roger Singleton, the chief adviser on children’s safety, who said that the current ban on physical punishment in schools should be extended to include any form of care or supervision carried out other than by a parent or member of the child’s own family or household.

Sir Roger said that he had concluded that to define what constituted the family or household would be 'cumbersome, bureaucratic' and 'largely impractical'. However, he recommended that parents who disapprove of smacking should make this clear to others who care for their children.

In January, Sir Roger was asked by the children’s secretary to investigate a loophole in the law that allowed part-time educational settings to smack children. Concern about the use of smacking had arisen because of allegations about the treatment of children in part-time religious schools (News, 27 January and 4 February).

Children’s secretary Ed Balls said, ‘Sir Roger’s report makes it clear that a child should not be smacked by anyone outside the family. I believe this is a sensible and proportionate approach. The Government does not condone smacking, nor do we want to criminalise parents who choose to discipline their children with a mild smack. We know that the majority of parents agree with this view.’

Physical punishment is banned in all early years settings, maintained schools and full-time independent schools, children’s homes and local authority foster homes. In his report, Sir Roger said this ban ‘should be extended to all other settings’ where children ‘learn, play, worship or are cared for.’

In compiling the report Sir Roger collected views from parents, children, religious leaders and charities. A survey of over 1,000 adults revealed that 66 per cent of people interviewed disagreed that a person other than a child’s parent or guardian should be allowed to smack a child, while 28 per cent agreed. However, while 58 per cent agreed that a grandparent should be allowed to smack a child, support for smacking decreased the more distant the relationship  of a person to a child, so that only 3 per cent agreed that a person giving religious instruction outside school should be allowed to smack.

Sir Roger said, ‘Banning physical punishment outside of the family home sends a straight forward message that it is entirely unacceptable in any form of care, education or leisure.

'There is some excellent ongoing work promoting positive parenting techniques. It is imperative that this work continues to give all parents the ability to support a child’s development without recourse to physical punishment.’

Sir Roger highlighted the Government’s guide, produced with the support of voluntary organisations and charities, Being a Parent in the Real World, as an example of guidance that should be used to help parents find ways of disciplining their children that do not involve smacking.

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