A sweet stroke of luck for a disability support pensioner has turned sour with Centrelink nabbing $2,000 of his monthly Lotto winnings.
Craig Hill, a former prison English teacher from Queensland, hit the jackpot on October 14 when he picked up a $60,000 Division Two prize in the Set For Life lottery, The Courier Mail reported. The prize sees him paid $5000 a month for 12 months.
But it’s become a catch-22 for the former Townsville worker who the government now classifies as a “professional gambler.” It comes down to the fact his win is paid out monthly instead of in one big lump sum, forcing his pension to be cut by almost $500 a fortnight. “It’s just ridiculous,” said Mr Hill, who now lives in Brisbane.
Double whammy loss for lotto couple
After more than a decade on the disability support pension, Mr Hill’s payment has now dropped from $821.20 to $328.20 a fortnight due to the “income from gambling” classification.
But it’s been a double pinch for Mr Hill and his wife after he raised the issue with Centrelink.
“When I referred Centrelink’s decision to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, Centrelink doubled down and applied the $5,000 to my wife’s carer’s payment as well,” he said. “Meaning we are both being penalised for the same lottery win.”
Along with Mr Hill’s $500 a fortnight loss, his wife’s pension also suffered the same fate.
“Basically out of my $5000 [per month] lottery win, Centrelink are taking $2,000 of it,” he told news.com.au.
Over 12 months that adds up to a whopping $24,000.
Pension payment essential for hostage victim
For Mr Hill, who was forced into early retirement following a hostage situation at Townsville Correctional Facility, the fortnightly payment was essential.
He’d been diagnosed with PTSD and schizophrenia 30 years ago after working as a prison guard, but it was reportedly an incident in 2019 that led him to leave the job. For about 30 minutes, Mr Hill was held hostage by prisoners.
“I was already suffering from PTSD from work as a prisoner officer,” he told The Courier Mail. “This aggravated the situation and now I hardly ever leave the home.”
According to the Department of Social Services, lottery winnings received periodically are assessed as income. “This is consistent with the principle of targeting assistance to those who need it the most,” a spokesperson told The Courier Mail.
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