This post appeared as an article in the Sunday Star Times on Sunday the 17th of June, 2012: click here for the original
A survey around sensitive claims and the treatment of sexual abuse victims has raised more questions about the Accident Compensation Corporation.
It comes as a senior manager’s comments are being interpreted as confirming there was pressure from the board on staff to dump sex abuse claimants.
Allegations ACC had turned from rehabilitating clients to saving money have seen three board members, including chairman John Judge, and chief executive Ralph Stewart, quit.
Now, the man behind the survey of 146 health professionals and 72 abuse victims, psychotherapist and blogger Kyle MacDonald, says there has been a “cold-blooded” directive from the board to look after the “bottom-line” regardless of the cost to victims.
In 2009 ACC reinterpreted the rules around sensitive claims so a diagnosed psychiatric illness was required to determine mental harm. That left many people ineligible for help, and led to a public outcry.
A year later former ACC Minister Nick Smith urged the corporation to adopt recommendations from a review, but MacDonald says the survey shows only two have been adopted, five have not been, four have returned mixed results, and another four were not being measured. Now a transcript of a presentation by claims general manager Denise Cosgrove last November acknowledges the sensitive claims changes “didn’t work so well”, and appears to confirm ACC was removing “low-hanging fruit and easy gains” from the scheme.
“I get that constant message from the board every day,” she said.
Green Party ACC spokesman Kevin Hague said the survey showed there was “wilful resistance” to the call to improve, and, because there was a “culture of disentitlement”, the board should be replaced. Labour’s Andrew Little said: “They will say it is legitimate to minimise costs, but the whole basis of ACC is treatment, compensation for the bulk of your losses and rehabilitation.”
An ACC spokesman said MacDonald was only one of those giving feedback and there would be no comment until a final report, which was “imminent”, but Cosgrove’s comments referred to system improvements, not claimants.
MacDonald dismissed that. “It’s hard to interpret in any other way than referring to specific cases and claims.”
He said the issue for claimants was ACC refusing to accept the advice of clinicians working with victims, and insisting they be interviewed by its own assessors. “You are required to report intimate and distressing detail to a complete stranger”, which had an “incredibly detrimental effect”.
“There has been a very intentional aim of getting the longest and most expensive claimants out. It’s cold-blooded. What has become clear is that ACC is being directed from ministerial and board level to focus on the bottom line and that has been at the expense of sensitive claimants.”
A spokeswoman for ACC Minister Judith Collins said board comments were a matter for the board but the minister expected ACC to check claims veracity carefully and to treat all professionally.
40.4 per cent say ACC has done “very little” to protect client safety
37.8 per cent say ACC has done “very little” to protect client therapeutic relationship
42.5 per cent say ACC has done “very little” to implement changes
Claimants 29.3 per cent say ACC has “not at all” protected their safety
38.1 per cent say ACC has “not at all” protected their therapeutic relationship
50.6 per cent say ACC has “not at all” implemented changes
– © Fairfax NZ News
Speaking as a low hanging swamp dwelling fruit…
I think the Greens have got it right with their plan on How to Rehabilitate ACC to its former self in 100 days.
Im hoping the Min Collins isnt too prideful to set it in motion – without any penny-pinching alterations. It needs to hppen now. Imagine how life will be for all the abused and mismanaged claimants in 100 days or less, once this is implemented!
Good work Kevin Hague 🙂
Yesterday, I recieved a copy of 2 ACC assessor assessments done on paper only for my second review hearing in July – using their uncorrected wrong file info to feed the assessors.
So now apparantly I made up my captive rapes!!
Also, I made up my physical injuries!!
Apparantly they have decided I have a personality that exaggerates and makes thing up.
And apparantly I would be dead if what I said happened to me, actually happened to me or I would be physically maimed – which of course I am physically and psychologically maimed, but I didnt die.
Last night I wanteed to kill these ACC Lying toadie assessors with my bare hands – so I went to seek assistance from mental health today, and told them this, but they dont have the expertise to handle me – so I walked out and came back home!!
I hate ACC! I am going to win ALL of my reviews due to the fact that their reporting is so obviously corrupt and misinformed. UNbelievable, that a person who has been sooo incredibly abused, now gets further abuse from socalled medical professionals – being the toadie assessors Fenwick and Collier!!
I am living on Xanax and Zopiclone at the moment!
Unicorn I feel for your pain and abuse, yet this is Government driven so it’s a real case of Catch 22 or damned if you do….. We are in the same boat and I must say it makes me laugh when this same Government insists it is serious about combating the poor record of child abuse that always and still exists in NZ; yet in our experience they are the leaders in perpetuating the abuse through it’s own agencies.
It’s interesting that abusers are very skilled at manipulating their way into positions of control and influence as it gives them access to the vulnerable that they can then terrorise, like a Cat with a mouse. As I have said previously, the lack of support to do a thorough investigation of ACC’s ways is disturbing. The message it sends to us all is that nothing is going to change and the Powers that be are comfortable with the abuse that is being meted out by ACC in it’s illegal application of the AC 2001 Act through the manipulation of assessments by Contracted assessors, many who have worked for no other client than ACC for many years.
I wonder if the IRD would define these ACC assessors as Independent Contractors or Employees, for Tax purposes?
This is so true from Gordon Campbell:
“That kind of thing – the systematic denial of entitlements – is the core problem with ACC. In the name of cost cutting, a culture has been fostered that treats long term ACC claimants as malingerers. They are not. They have been the victims of accidents and the payment they receive is not a welfare handout – it is compensation for (a) an ongoing condition that may always prevent them from going back to work and for (b) agreeing to forego the right they otherwise had to sue for damages. ACC claimants have agreed not to pursue the route of suing for compensation in return for the state intervening, and providing an adequate level of compensation. The state is now not only welshing on its side of the contract – it is paying enforcers to help them to do so.”
Yet it seems this statement will just remain an observation and the status quo, as alarming as it is, will remain the Elephant in the Room. As it has for at least a decade, nearly two.
I would rather have sued it would have saved 10 years at least of our lives and many years of enforced poverty while the smiling well fed smugly tell us “Move along there’s no story here”. Thinking here of Ralph Stuarts condescending manner on the Morning Report interview today, an attitude that exudes a knowing that they are immune from investigation and accountability as they are protected from on high.