Minister backs child-minders' right to smack

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The Independent Online
CHILD-MINDERS are to be given the right to smack children in their care, under guidance to be published by the Department of Health in the autumn.

The revised guidance to local authorities will delight the Conservative right, who believe in old-fashioned discipline, but will bring protests from children's organisations who argue that all corporal punishment should be outlawed.

The guidance will be careful not to advocate physical punishment and will do nothing directly to encourage it. But a circular being drawn up by John Bowis, the junior health minister, will endorse a High Court judgment in March which restored child- minders' rights to smack.

The court overturned a refusal by Sutton council to re- register Anne Davis as a child-minder because she would not give an undertaking not to smack. The mother of the child Mrs Davis cared for approved of her policy. The council had relied on guidance under the 1989 Children Act which stated that corporal punishment, including smacking, 'should not' be used by child-minders.

At the time Mr Bowis welcomed the court's decision, saying its effect was to 'underscore common sense'. Virginia Bottomley, Secretary of State for Health, has made clear her view that control and discipline is part of caring parenting.

The new guidance is expected to state that child- minders will have to make clear whether it is their policy to smack children or not, so that parents will still be able to choose the regime their child will be under.

David Shaw, the right-wing Conservative MP for Dover, welcomed the move yesterday, saying it was 'entirely appropriate that child-minders should be able to smack, providing they exercise that right responsibly'.

But the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children said: 'Corporal punishment is not an effective way of disciplining children. It can escalate into unacceptable levels of violence and signals that violence in the family is legitimate'.

The National Child minding Association said: 'There is no way to legislate for an 'acceptable' smack.'

Department of Health sources indicated the guidance will apply only to child- minders - leaving in place the ban on the use of corporal punishment in children's homes and by foster parents.

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