Leading article: The smack of prejudice

Share
Related Topics

The report by Britain's four Children's Commissioners, which will be presented to the United Nations in Geneva this week, is the latest in a long line of studies that tells us what, deep down, we already know – that our society has a grossly dysfunctional relationship with its younger members. Too many children are being cast into the black hole of the criminal justice system; too many live in poverty; too many are receiving a sub-standard education. A disturbing number of under-16s are obese. And they are more likely to abuse alcohol and drugs than their peers in other rich nations.

Just as damagingly, there is a tendency among the older generations to demonise the young, poisoning relations and skewing public policy towards knee-jerk "punishments" and away from effective solutions to juvenile crime. Responsibility for such a failure must be shared across the political establishment. Neither of the two main political parties has been sufficiently progressive in this area. David Cameron yesterday unveiled proposals to "strengthen the family", including tax breaks for married couples and investment in counselling services. No one would deny that family breakdown is a factor behind youth crime. But the Conservative leader has said disappointingly little in recent years about the other causes of social breakdown, such as poverty and the premature criminalisation of the young.

The commissioners rightly give the Government some credit, particularly for its efforts to reduce income inequality through tax credits. Yet ministers are also guilty of failing to pick some of the lowest-hanging fruit when it comes to improving relations with young people.

The report's authors say they are "disappointed" that the Government has not banned parents from smacking their children. This newspaper echoes that disappointment. The status quo means that children have less protection from assault than adults. What could be more representative of the subordinate status imposed on young people in Britain?

Outlawing the physical chastisement of children would be a straightforward way for the Government to show that it is serious about putting young people's interests first. But a ban on smacking would not be merely a gesture. Those countries that have gone down this road tend to enjoy rather healthier inter-generational relationships than our own.

Ministers have shied away from this subject in the past because of an absence of parental support for a ban. But as this latest report makes clear, popular prejudices when it comes to dealing with children are part of the problem, not the solution. They need to be confronted, not appeased.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Compensation and Benefits Manager - Brentwood - Circa £60,000

£60000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Compensation and Benefits Manager - Compensat...

SEN Teaching Assistant

£50 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN Teaching Assistant We are curr...

English Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: English Teachers with QTS nee...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Reading: QTS Maths Teachers needed for...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

There's nothing wrong with 'sexting' - everyone has done it

Natasha Devon
Hunted: A stag lies dead on Jura, where David Cameron holidays and has himself stalked deer  

David Beckham's Haig Club whisky is exactly what’s wrong with the Highlands

Liam Turbett
Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker