Equal protection for children

In 2014 I was awarded a @WCMTUK Fellowship from the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust. During the travels that resulted from this Fellowship award, and a grant from the Association of Paediatric Emergency Medicine, I was fortunate enough to be able to travel to the USA, Singapore, Malaysia, Cambodia and Hong Kong.

I was able to look at strategies we could consider in the UK to better protect children and young people from harm.

One of the key recommendations I made in my report, Living on a Railway Line, was that legislation should be introduced in the UK to prohibit physical punishment of children. This recommendation was evidence-based looking at the scientific evidence that exists regarding the effects of physical punishment of children on their health and wellbeing.

This is a recommendation I have promoted widely since Living on a Railway Line was published in October 2014.

In a truly international collaboration, Felicity Gerry QC, Marcia Stanton MSW and I wrote an academic paper in the International Journal of Children’s Rights setting out the evidence behind why children and young people deserve and need the same protections that adults are entitled to and, hence, why there should be a change in the UK law to prohibit physical punishment of children.

The four Children’s Commissioners in the UK (Wales, Northern Ireland, Scotland and England) are on public record calling, on multiple occasions, for a change in laws to better protect children and young people.

Over recent months there has been consultation in Scotland surrounding the debate about future legislation to give equal protection to children.

The above developments are very welcome – and entirely consistent with both the findings from my Churchill Fellowship report and our academic research paper – and it looks as though Scotland may become the first country in the UK to give the equal protection that children and young people deserve.

I’ll be watching what happens in Scotland very closely and continuing to promote the scientific, academic arguments about why new legislation to protect children and young people from physical punishment is desperately needed.

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