A disability pensioner has been dealt a further blow with The Lott rejecting his request to have his lotto prize paid out in full to stop Centrelink grabbing $2,000 of his monthly winnings.
Craig Hill from Brisbane thought he’d struck gold in October when he took out a $60,000 Division Two prize in the Set For Life lottery. As part of his victory, he’ll receive a $5,000 handout every month for the next year.
But according to Centrelink that makes him a ‘professional gambler’ and his monthly prize is seen as an income that subsequently affects his pension payment. Under this rule, Mr Hill’s welfare cheque is cut by $500 a fortnight, along with his wife’s carers payment, setting back their monthly household income by $2,000.
“If I’d won a $60,000 lump sum or even a $600,000 lump sum, it’s an asset but if I get it paid monthly it’s income as gambling,” the former prison English teacher told Yahoo News Australia. “It’s ridiculous that one lottery prizes is assets and another lottery prize is income.”
Winner’s desperate request denied
Mr Hill, who left his employment at Townsville Correctional Centre in 2019 after a hostage situation with inmates aggravated his PTSD, turned to The Lott for help to void a Centrelink reduction.
“I asked The Lott if I could get a lump sum and they said only in exceptional circumstances and this is not an exceptional circumstance,” he said. “They just say it’s our rules and you've got to abide by them.”
A deflated Mr Hill says he’s running out of options after already appealing to Centrelink for a break. He says when he asked for a review of his situation, they “doubled down” and applied the $5,000 monthly prize to his wife’s carer’s allowance. Even with both allowances reduced the couple are about $3000 a month better off than before their lotto win.
“I said, ok I will take it to the Minister of Appeals Tribunal, and then they said, oh well in that case we’re going to audit your pension going back to the last seven years,” he explained. “I’ve got no problem with that. I wasn’t a bit fazed, [but] it’s bullying.”
Hostage victim had hoped to use winnings to get help
The former vice president of the Australian Democrats says without the money to afford a lawyer he isn’t sure he can take his fight any further.
“All I can do is take it to the Ministry of Appeals Tribunal,” he said.
While the former prison worker now does a bit of clerical work on the side, Mr Hill, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia 30 years ago, was looking to use his lotto winnings to see medical professionals.
“I had hoped to use some of the money to get a psychiatrist so I could get medication reviews and transcranial magnetic stimulation,” he said, referring to a procedure of brain stimulation that can be used to treat psychiatric disorders.
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