Annual Delegates Conference 2024: NHS workers ‘unfairly penalised’ by child benefit rules

At the Society’s ADC, attendees will debate whether the SoR should lobby government for universal child benefits

Published: 15 April 2024 Event News

The SoR's 2024 Annual Delegates Conference will hear debate on whether the Society should lobby government to reintroduce a universal payment per child, no matter how much parents earn.

NHS workers are being “unfairly penalised” by child benefits thresholds, according to a motion due to be raised on Tuesday (16 April) at the SoR’s Annual Delegates Conference (ADC).

'Investing in every child'

Prior to 2013, child benefits were paid regardless of family income – as part of efforts “intended to show that the state invested in every child.”

Means testing for the benefit was introduced by the coalition government in 2013, with a cap for households where one parent earned more than £50,000. A parent earning more than £50,000 would receive less benefit, until payments stopped altogether once they reached £60,000.

In March this year, Jeremy Hunt, the chancellor of the exchequer, raised the threshold from £50,000 to £60,000. Families lose their entitlement to the benefit altogether when one parent in the household earns £80,000. 

Under these rules, two parents living in the same house and earning £59,000 each – a combined income of £118,000 – would remain below the threshold and would be entitled to full child benefit.

A 'value shift'

Dean Rogers, SoR director of industrial strategy, said: “Most NHS professionals and leaders would not be considered high earners. Many of them work long hours, taking on additional overtime in order to be able to support their families. They are then penalised for this, because they lose their entitlement to child benefit – undermining all their hard work. 

“Means-testing child benefit undermines the fundamental principle of universal benefits – for all, paid for by all – which is also the founding principle of the NHS.   

“We want to see a return to the original universal payments. There are few clearer signals of the value shift in our tax and benefit system in the 21st century than the gradual erosion of child benefit.”

'The current system penalises the family'

In families with two parents employed by the NHS, a lack of flexible working makes it “very common” for one parent to cut back their hours to fit around childcare, Mr Rogers added. Then the other takes on long hours and overtime, bringing their pay above £60,000.

He continued: “The family income stays the same in these cases – or may even drop slightly. But the current system penalises the family, because the majority of the household income now comes from one earner. It also penalises single parents, who start to lose child benefit as soon as their income hits £60,000 – regardless of the fact that theirs is the only income in the household.”

If payments had moved with inflation, as was included with the initial proposal, the threshold for reduced child benefit would be £71,812, and child benefit would be lost entirely at £84,174. 

Unfair and disproportionate

Mr Rogers said: “Because these thresholds haven’t risen with inflation, hard-working NHS professionals and staff are losing out on the money they need to help support their families.” 

Earlier this year, Martin Lewis, the founder of, highlighted the unfairness of this rule, highlighting that single-income families were disproportionately penalised. 

In a letter to the chancellor, he wrote: “This was by far the biggest single topic the public asked me to raise with you.” 

The Radiography Manifesto

The SoR's Annual Delegates Conference, taking place at the Queens Hotel in Leeds from 15-17 April, provides members with the unique opportunity to help shape the strategic direction of the Society, and wider profession.

Bringing together up to 300 members, including regional representatives, regional and national officers and UK Council, ADC deals with current issues within the radiography profession, or matters of personal importance to members.

This year's ADC will also be an opportunity for members to discuss the Radiography Manifesto, published in March 2024, in advance of the forthcoming general election. 

The manifesto calls on political parties to: commit to inflation-proof pay awards and pay restoration to 2008 levels; ensure increasing demand can be met with strategic workforce planning; enable people to enter, develop and progress within the radiography profession; ensure safe working practices, adequate staffing numbers and a skills mix in all areas of radiography; provide adequate funding for a world-class health and social-care system throughout the UK.

Find out more about the ADC here.

(Image: Dean Rogers, director of industrial strategy for the SoR)