Children Are Unbeatable! is asking English Local Safeguarding Children Boards (LSCBS) to formally support our aims. A quarter so far have signed up – see the list.
If your work involves child protection in any way, please contact your LSCB and encourage them to sign up to the Alliance
If you are a member of an LSCB that has not yet discussed signing up to the Alliance, please urge your board chair to place the issue on the agenda for the next meeting
If you are a member of an LSCB that voted not to sign up, please ask the chair to reconsider the decision
If you are a member of an LSCB that has signed up, please ask your chair to promote that decision with other boards in the region
Why LSCBs should sign up
The LSCBs that have signed up have done so because they recognise that banning physical punishment is fundamental to children’s protection. As Paul Fallon, chair of Essex LSCB, put it:
“As an independent chair of the independent statutory body charged with promoting the safety of all our children it is inconceivable to me that we could do anything other than press for children to have the same legal protection from assault as adults. This would not mean criminalising well-meaning parents, but would give a clear and much-needed message that in our “civilised” society people should not hit each other.”
In June 2010 the following letter was sent to all chairs of LSCBS:
We are writing to ask your Board to join us in supporting the aims of the Children Are Unbeatable! Alliance, seeking complete removal of the “reasonable punishment” defence for common assaults on children. The Alliance is supported by more than 600 organisations and projects, including all the main child protection agencies and over twenty English Local Safeguarding Children Boards.
We sincerely believe that the legality of hitting and hurting children poses a serious and entirely unnecessary obstacle to effective safeguarding. Ending all legalised violence against children has to be the only safe foundation for child protection; it is also essential for the effective promotion of positive, non-violent forms of discipline.
The severe violence that kills at least one young child a week in England and Wales and injures many thousands more has been unlawful for decades. But had those around these families, or working with them, been able to deliver the clear message that hitting and hurting children, like hitting and hurting anyone else, is unlawful, it is reasonable to conclude that in some cases the violence would not have started, let alone escalated. In other cases, it is equally reasonable to suggest that those witnessing or suspicious of the abuse would have felt more confident about intervening, or the children themselves would have sought help.
The UK Government is under very strong human rights pressure to reform the law, because children have the same right as adults to respect for their human dignity and physical integrity and to equal protection under the law. Twenty one European countries have already banned all physical punishment – in every case in advance of public opinion in those countries. This is a measure which calls for leadership - physical punishment does not disappear of its own accord. We believe that if the safeguarding world joins the pressure for complete removal of the “reasonable punishment” defence, Government and Parliament will feel able to take the necessary action. Fears that minor smacking will be prosecuted are unfounded. The existing threshold of “significant harm” for triggering investigations and other interventions would not change. Prosecutions only proceed when in the public interest and in the best interests of affected children. We who work in, or in support of, the child protection service know that this essential reform can be implemented in the best interests of the child and in the public interest.
We appreciate that Boards are working under extraordinary pressures, but hope you will find time to discuss and agree your Board’s support. The recently published update of Working Together confirms LSCBs’ powers to engage in any activity conducive to their objectives of protecting children from harm and ensuring that they have safe and effective care. It also stresses the need for Boards to have a separate identity and an independent voice. Our request is simply for the Board to indicate its support for the aims of the Alliance: it does not require any further actions or resources.
Dame Clare Tickell, Chief Executive, Action for Children
Dr Catherine Powell, Chair, British Association for the Study and Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (BASPCAN)
Hilton Dawson, Chief Executive, British Association of Social Workers
Maggie Jones, Chief Executive, Children England
Alison Higley, Vice-Chair, National Professional Committee, Community Practitioners and Health Visitors Association (CPHVA)
Dr Katherine Rake, OBE, Chief Executive, Family and Parenting Institute
Sir Paul Ennals, Chief Executive, National Children’s Bureau
Andrew Flanagan, Chief Executive, NSPCC
Pamela Park, Chief Executive, Parenting UK
Dr Peter Carter, Chief Executive and General Secretary, Royal College of Nursing
Professor Terence Stephenson, President, Royal College of Paediatricians and Child Health
Bob Reitemeier, Chief Executive, The Children’s Society
Is signing up in the remit of LSCBs?
Some LSCBs have declined to sign up because they believed they are not empowered to support campaigns like CAU! This is incorrect. Guidance on the role of LSCBs in Working Together to safeguard children lays a strong emphasis on their independence from their Children’s Trust Board, the local authority and statutory member-organisations (see paragraphs 3.52-3.73) and makes clear that LSCBs’ role is to “go beyond” the core business of local co-ordination on child protection “to their wider remit, which includes preventive work to avoid harm being suffered” (paragraph 3.6).