United Kingdom

Swimmer who represented Great Britain is homeless because she 'can't access her pension'

A swimmer who represented Great Britain is now homeless and living in a graveyard because she cannot access her pension, she has revealed.

Laraine McHendrie Decarie, 64, has been homeless for four years and is living on a piece of cardboard outside a church in London after losing all her finances.

She says she paid into a pension since she was 14 but has been left destitute after losing all of her finances.

Laraine represented Great Britain and Canada in swimming competitions around the world in the 1980s.

Swimmer Laraine McHendrie Decaire, 64, who represented Great Britain is now homeless and living in a graveyard because she cannot access her pension, it has been revealed

She has been homeless for four years and is living on a piece of cardboard outside a church in London after losing all her finances

She studied at the prestigious McGill University in Montreal, Canada, as well as a university in London.

The swimmer also worked as a social care worker and nanny but her life was turned upside down after she retired in the late 1990s. 

Laraine told MyLondon: 'Unfortunately I lost my finances. I ended up in my situation actually because of changes in the system, and theft and fraud and different things like that.

'They changed the age of retirement, so now it's 66. So two pensions that I've paid for got moved, so I'm not eligible for that.

'It's a totally different world now - where you looked forward to your retirement and you did pay into the system and it's taken away from you.'

Laraine worked as a social care worker and nanny but her life was turned upside down after she retired in the late 1990s

She lost her flat and belongings and was forced to visit the job centre everyday for a month in order to prove she lives in London before being given any benefits.

Laraine was told she would have to repay all welfare payments when she started receiving her pension.

She did not qualify for social housing or help because she had no previous mental health problems or children under 16.

Laraine has 'existed on absolutely no money whatsoever' for the last four years, getting by on food she gets while volunteering.

The swimmer is a keen artist and makes crochet gifts for homeless charity Under One Sky volunteers who have helped her through the winter.

She lost her flat and belongings and was forced to visit the job centre everyday for a month in order to prove she lives in London before being given any benefits

But she is now suffering arthritis and struggles to make art the way she used to. 

Charity worker Vicci McGarrigle said Laraine's living conditions are 'a dangerous and difficult place for her to survive'.

She said: 'Despite being born in the UK and having worked her whole life helping people and paying into two pensions, the streets of London are all she can call home and they have been a dangerous and difficult place for her to survive

'She hardly ever complains. She doesn’t drink or abuse any substances; she doesn’t even swear, and her faith has kept her strong, but a woman of her age should absolutely not be on the streets. 

'Sadly, her homeland has let her down and the system is failing Laraine, and many like her.'

With the help of a charity fundraiser page Laraine is now living in a hotel until she can get her own rented accommodation.

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