New Years Resolution: Complain more

I have always been inclined to complain about injustice. It will surprise few that I have even been known to send the odd letter to the editor in the past and much to my partner’s annoyance even yell at the evening news. Occasionally I even stop watching the news, just so I stop yelling at it. This behaviour is not good for my blood pressure. It may have even caused me a mental injury.

However nothing soothes my furrowed brow, and lowers my systolic pressure more than a well crafted, slightly patronising, sarcastic and verbose letter of complaint. Any good letter of complaint contains a few crucial elements, but in essence is a clever longwinded way of saying “F**K YOU, YOU’RE WRONG (and may very well be an idiot.)”

Fortunately for all this blog, the online petition and numerous complaints to ACC have led to much less yelling at the television. And we know that effective expression of aggression is actually good for us, to move from powerless “victims” to assertive actors is what much of good therapy is all about.

So despite the somewhat worn out, defeated tone of my last blog, I have resolved in 2010 to complain more, and I hope to provide you all with some guidance and motivation to do the same.

Members of the public:

Wait until you are in a bad mood. Don’t kick the cat, or yell at the television for that matter, write a letter:

“Dear Hon. N Smith, It astounds me that you seem able to ignore the very real impact your government’s decisions are having on the most vulnerable members of our society…”

Template letters from the National Council of Women are here and one I have posted in the past is here. Please feel free to edit to your hearts content.

The details of all minsters of the National Government are here. Postage to government is free, so send them to as many ministers as frequently as you like. More is, in this case, more. Don’t forget to mention how likely this all is to influence your voting…

Counsellors, therapists and other professionals.

Feel free to do the above. Also if you still see ACC clients, then in the interests of self care, and general wellbeing I suggest you complain vociferously and often to complaints@acc.co.nz.  ACC are required under their statutory obligations to process all complaints received. If they offer you the option of either having it resolved at the “unit level” or escalating to the office of complaints, escalate. A simple count of the number of complaints received at the six month review is evidence of the new pathway not working. Any action or inaction by ACC is grounds for complaint. Rude case managers, not sticking to their own pathway, delays in processing claims, customer service people not knowing about their own processes etc.

However when it comes to clinical decisions there is a separate process of mediation, review and appeal. This process is managed externally by DRSL. Again, ACC are required to follow through on all requests for mediation and review received and increased number of reviews is also evidence of the new pathway not working.

An excellent detailed summary of the process here and another on DRSL’s site here.

It is important to note that you can do all of the above for one claim. So if your claim is declined, in ways that are clearly in violation of ACC’s statutory obligations, you can make a complaint about the nature of the declined claim, request mediation and request a review of the decision. Also for each claim filed under the new pathway don’t forget to fill out our survey for clinicians, linked to on this site or go here.

Clients:

So here’s the good news: despite how powerless you feel at the hands of ACC, you are more powerful than you think. All of the above is available to you as well. As a client of ACC you are able to make a formal complaint, and request a review of a claims decision. See here for ACC’s info page on how to do these things, as well as the above links.

It is inevitable that as this fight against such a faceless and cruel beauracracy wears on that this will become a war of attrition. The risk is that as we lose energy, faith and as the bruning fire of anger slowly dies the Sensitive Claims scheme dies with it, fading into antiquity and ACC wins. We must continue to find ways to voice our anger and target it in ways that are effective. The more valid complaints, mediation requests and reviews are conducted over this six month period prior to the review, the better.

And if you need to add some fuel to the fire, I suggest you read this excellent article from Saturday’s Christchurch Press. In it Dr. Peter Jansen is quoted as saying:

“He [Jansen} believed counsellors were unhappy because the ACC was not allowing them to make a diagnosis.” Press, 09/01/10.

So join me in my resolution to keep fighting. Don’t yell at the television, yell eloquently at ACC. And feel free to let me know your own experiences of mediation, review and the complaints procedure. I’d love to hear how you get on.

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