I won £34,000 on lottery but had my disability benefits cut after the government branded me a 'professional gambler' | The Sun

A DISABLED teacher won £34k in the lottery but had his benefits cut after the government branded him a professional gambler.

Craig Hill, 61, said Aussie authorities slashed his fortnightly disability pension days after his miracle win.

The retired teacher has his pension cut from £470 to £187 a fortnight because he was considered a "professional gambler".

Mr Hill suffered severe psychological damage when inmates at Townsville prison held him hostage in 2019.

He was teaching hardened crims how to read and write when a riot broke out and nine of his students threatened to kill him with their pens.

"Usually they're pretty well behaved but one of the guards thought it would be funny to tell them I was a former prison officer and I was spying on them," he told the Daily Mail Australia.


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"That had a pretty adverse effect, these guys are doing life for murder for a reason, they're not super bright."

Mr Hill was blocked from leaving and told that "if we have to kill anyone, because you're an ex-prison officer, you'll be the first one".

They then started wielding their pens like knives and threatened to stab him to death for the hour he was trapped in the classroom.

"A pen can do a lot of damage if you stick it in the jugular. I knew, OK, this is serious, it scared the f**k out of me," he said.

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The two prison guards standing outside the room had no idea what was going on, so Mr Hill to draw on his decades of training to survive.

He talked his way out of being killed by telling the inmates that even if they were doing life for murder and thought they had nothing to lose that they would also be risking their own lives.

"The unwritten rule is that if you harm a hostage you won't get out of there alive," the cursed lottery winner said.

"Even though I was scared I couldn't show any fear, if you show fear they have power over you."

After an hour, the inmates gave up and went back to their cells, leaving Mr Hill unscathed.

The incident exacerbated Mr Hill's PTSD and schizophrenia and stopped him from teaching because he couldn't bare leaving the house.

"After a few weeks I couldn't concentrate, I have a lot of stress and anxiety, I get panic attacks especially when I leave the house," he said.

"Once a month or so I have a good day and I'm able to go out, maybe to the local pub for trivia but after a couple of hours I'll have a panic attack and have to go home.

"I have nightmares about the jail, I wake up in a cold sweat."

Mr Hill was approved for a disability benefit, which ran out after two years, and is now totally reliant on his and his wife's pensions.

So when he won £34k, he thought he finally caught a break, only for Aussie authorities to immediately cut his payments.

When he asked them for a review, they then cut his wife's carer's allowance by the same amount.

"I did the right thing and contacted Centrelink and they told me because it was paid monthly it counted as income from gambling," he said.

"So I asked if I could deduct all my gambling losses over the past 20 years and they said no, you only become a professional gambler on the day you win.

"If I'd won $600,000 (£342k) on the Powerball it wouldn't affect my pension but because it's paid monthly I'm a professional gambler, it's ridiculous."

He was then told he could take it up with the Appeals courts but risk facing an audit of his pension for the past seven years.

"There's a culture in some of these departments where they see clients as the enemy but if they didn't have clients they wouldn't have jobs," he said.

Mr Hill said he only plays the lotto when the jackpot is high and has bought Set For Life tickets – the draw he won – since 2015.

"I'm not betting on the horses or going to the casino, I maybe have a bit of a lash on the poker machines once in a while," he said.

He's been in constant contact with several Aussie government department for help but has been rejected every single time.

"Everyone has the capacity to fix the problem but no one wants to," he said.

The Department for Social Services said few income amounts were excluded from welfare calculations.

It said: "Lottery winnings that are received periodically, for example on a monthly basis for an indefinite length of time, are assessed as income for the period to which they relate.

"This is consistent with the principle of targeting assistance to those who need it most. A periodic lottery winning is an ongoing source of income which can be used for a person’s own self-support."

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They said if Mr Hill had accepted the payment in a lump sum, instead of £2,800 payments over 12 months, then it wouldn't have been assessed as income.

They added that Mr Hill's wife's carer payment was slashed because the pension income tests counts the gross income of both partners.

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