Scots parents will be 'caught unaware' by national smacking ban

Parents in Scotland will be "caught unaware" when a national ban on smacking children comes into force next month, campaigners have warned.

Scots smacking ban comes into effect next month

There are fears the focus on the Coronavirus pandemic has "exacerbated" the situation with many of the usual channels of communication cut off.

The Scottish Government has allocated £20,000 for an awareness-raising push about the law change but no comprehensive national campaign is to be undertaken.

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Ministers insist that they have worked with partners to ensure advice about the change is shared with a "wide audience."

Parents who smack their children could be prosecuted under the Children (Equal Protection from Assault) (Scotland) Act 2019 which will come into effect on November 7th. Social work and police intervention could also follow if they continue to smack youngsters.

A letter from a Scottish Government official to a local authority in June, obtained through Freedom of Information by the Be Reasonable campaign group which opposes the ban, states that Ministers “are not planning a national marketing campaign” on the smacking ban. The letter claims that awareness-raising can be achieved by “other means” including circulars to different organisations, a factsheet aimed at parents, a new page on the Scottish Government website and the government’s flagship parenting site Parent Club.

Dr Ashley Frawley, a sociologist and spokeswoman for the Be Reasonable campaign, said: “There’s a strong argument that the Scottish Government has failed in its duty to raise public awareness about the smacking ban. With just over a month to go until the ban is implemented, nothing has been done to tell families what it means. The only resource that comes close to telling the truth is an obscure webpage tucked on the gov.scot site.

“Unlike other cultural changes such as the smoking ban, there has been no marketing to bring the public up to speed.

"Many parents will simply be caught unawares. The situation has been exacerbated by the coronavirus crisis which has left parents disconnected from the usual channels of communication – schools, nurseries and clubs, where discussions over parenting often take place.”

A document obtained from Social Work Scotland by Be Reasonable also states that that the details of families where smacking has occurred will be entered into a national police database and shared between professionals.

Dr Fawley added: "Parents who use even the mildest forms of physical punishment can expect social work intervention and the entry of their details on a Police Scotland blacklist. This negative intervention will be highly traumatic for families."

But a Scottish Government spokeswoman insisted that adequate awareness-raising will be undertaken and there are not expected to be a large number of prosecutions.

“This important legislation gives children the same legal protection from assault as adults – something backed by an overwhelming majority of public opinion. We have published information on our website about the Act, and have worked with stakeholders to share advice about this change with a wide audience.

“In line with our commitment to support parents as part of our work on this Act, we have also published information about positive parenting techniques on ParentClub. Based on experience from elsewhere, we do not expect a large number of prosecutions.”

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