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Meg Munn MP - Sheffield Heeley's voice in Parliament | Welcome
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Meg joins fight against smacking children

Friday, November 8, 2002

A growing number of Members of Parliament are concerned that action to  stop harsh physical punishment of children in the home is the missing link in Government thinking on reducing anti-social behaviour in society.
 
 MPs Meg Munn, Mike Hancock, Rudi Vis, Julie Morgan, Harry Cohen, Hilton Dawson, Paul Marsden, Bill Etherington, Harold Best, Nick Palmer, Paul  Burstow, Steve Ladyman and Jenny Tonge are joining the NSPCC in calling
 for a national debate about the negative effects of physical punishment on  the child, family relationships and society as a whole.
 
 This move takes place on the first "anniversary" of the Department of  Health announcement that the law in England and Wales would not be  modernised to say that hitting children is wrong.

Meg Munn, Labour and Co-operative MP for Sheffield Heeley and former Children"s Social Worker said
in a speech she made in Westminster Hall on October 24th 2002

"We live in a society where almost every week someone is murdered by someone they know: often a husband or ex-husband kills his wife and sometimes also their children. We urgently need to promote a less violent society. How can we teach our children not to hit out if we continue to say that there is a defence of reasonable chastisement? How can we even teach them not to hit their friends if we continue to support physical punishment of children by adults? "
 
 The NSPCC believes that physical punishment is a lesson in bad behaviour - teaching children that violence pays - which may lead to aggressive and anti-social behaviour in later childhood or adulthood.  Positive, non-violent discipline is the key to better-behaved children and a better-behaved society, the children"s charity argues.

NSPCC Director Mary Marsh said: "We are not suggesting that every  physically punished child will turn into a bully or a thug.  But we are convinced that there are strong links between harsh discipline involving physical punishment, often with sticks and belts, and anti-social behaviour later on in life.  Children mainly learn from their parents, and if the lesson is that aggression pays, we should not be surprised if this
 behaviour is replicated.  Parents need to show their children that hitting  is not acceptable and the best way to do this is by example."
 
 The NSPCC points to a large body of international evidence of links  between childhood physical punishment and anti-social behaviour.  In an  NSPCC report, research psychologist Dr Penelope Leach concludes that  "respected research tells us that the more children are hit, the more  aggressive, disruptive and anti-social they are; the less completely they
 fulfil their cognitive potential and the more liable they are to emotional  and behavioural problems, including criminal behaviours, in adolescence  and adulthood." (see notes)
 
 The NSPCC proposes:
 MODERN LAW: scrapping the 1860 legal defence of "reasonable chastisement"
 to give children the same legal protection from being hit as adults - no more, no less.
 MASS PUBLIC EDUCATION: building on the NSPCC"s "Hitting children must stop.  FULL STOP" public education initiative in May this year, the Government should lead a multi-million pound campaign to help parents use alternatives to hitting.
 NEW PARENTING SERVICES: investing in sustained parenting programmes to support all parents, but especially those under pressure, and promote positive parenting.
 
 The NSPCC says that this kind of Government action would help break the generational cycle of physical punishment, as has been achieved in other countries.  A MORI survey for the NSPCC in May found that parents not physically punished as a child are much more likely to say that physical punishment is the wrong way to discipline children (77%) than those parents who were themselves punished (48%).  Parents who had been
 physically punished as a child are much more likely to repeat the behaviour with their own children (70%) than those who were not themselves physically punished (20%).
 
 Over the past year since the Department of Health announcement, pressure for reform has grown considerably.  Highlights include:
 * An Open Letter to the Health Secretary in late November last year, signed by Glenys Kinnock MEP, Claire Rayner, Sir William Utting and many others leading personalities.
 * A MORI survey for the NSPCC in February, which showed that a majority (58 per cent) of people would support law reform.
 * The NSPCC"s powerful advertising campaign entitled "Hitting children must stop.  FULL STOP" in May.
 * The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child report in early October, which urged the Government to act urgently to change the law.
 * The Welsh Assembly Government coming out in favour of law reform in late October.
 
 NSPCC Director Mary Marsh said: "One year on, the hitting goes on, to the detriment of children, families and society.  We need a serious and informed national debate about the negative impact that hitting children can have on all our lives, which the Government should lead."
 - ends -
 
 


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