Back to work

Freud was famously quoted (or possibly mis-quoted, translating from German to English can be a bit tricky) as saying his definition of good mental health, or “normal neurosis” was to “Live, love and work.”

It seems John Key’s definition is much simpler: Work.

Both our Prime Minister and the current Minister for the ACC have both revealed their lack of understanding of the world of disability and welfare by their answers to recent questions about the performance based targets at the ACC:

“She [Ms. Collins] said measures that helped ACC encourage people back into work where appropriate were “a good thing”. NZ Herald, June 22, 2012.

This was further reinforced with yesterday’s announcement that WINZ will have a target of reducing the number of long term beneficiaries by 30{1b812f7ed7a77644fff58caf46676f6948311bf403a3d395b7a7f87010507f87}.  No word on where the jobs, training or rehabilitation to facilitate this will come from.   Just a number. 30{1b812f7ed7a77644fff58caf46676f6948311bf403a3d395b7a7f87010507f87}, gone, by 2017.

These measures will also be accompanied by financial bonuses to WINZ teams for achieving these targets.  Not only is it astounding that this announcement could be made at the same time as there is a public outcry about the very same practice at the ACC, but it also further distorts a system meant to be about helping and supporting people.

So here’s another number.  This document shows that as of March 31 2012, 42{1b812f7ed7a77644fff58caf46676f6948311bf403a3d395b7a7f87010507f87} of sickness beneficiaries were suffering from “psychological or psychiatric conditions.”  So nearly half of that 30{1b812f7ed7a77644fff58caf46676f6948311bf403a3d395b7a7f87010507f87} targeted will be people who suffer from some form of mental illness.

What these numbers, and the “fruit picking” at the ACC (see “Low hanging fruit”) seems to discount is the very real incapacity caused by “invisible injuries” and that those afflicted with psychological injuries are on a benefit and not working not because they choose to: but because they need to be.

And just deciding that they should work, won’t actually make it happen.

I think it can be very hard for some, our current Prime Minister included, to understand the complexity of how psychological injuries, trauma, poverty and disempowerment combine to leave people in a state where they can’t function, can’t Live, Love OR Work.  And in place of understanding the complexity comes an absence of compassion and a heartless oversimplification.  In therapeutic terms this is a defence against the very painful and unpalatable reality of how some members of our society have been disabled by the events of their lives and their childhoods.

Whether it be at the ACC or WINZ, providing bonuses to case managers for getting long term “clients” off the books rewards this very heartlessness and punishes compassion.   And that most definitely is a culture problem, not just at the ACC and WINZ, but in the National Cabinet that presides over them.

You see, the ACC was never meant to be “workplace insurance”.  It was meant to provide fairness and balance from all of us, to all of us.  It was also initially intended to cover incapacity due to “sickness”; what are now sickness beneficiaries with WINZ, and part of the “30{1b812f7ed7a77644fff58caf46676f6948311bf403a3d395b7a7f87010507f87}”

Who better to explain this than Sir Owen Woodhouse, the Judge who was the architect of the original Accident Compensation scheme:

“His [Sir Woodhouse’s]advice to those who want to revamp ACC is very simple:

“When you are peering into the future it is not at all a bad idea to remember where you have been… …The social responsibilities which underpin ACC ought never to be tested by clever equations, or brushed to one side by economic dogma… …In the end, they depend on decent fellow feeling and the ideas and ideals that support it.” National Business Review, June 25, 2012

Work as a gross outcome is not a fair or decent measure, simply an economic one.  It tells me very little about whether a person has adjusted to their change of circumstances, recovered from their trauma, or is a happy well balanced member of society.  It only says: as a society we have found a legal argument that means we don’t have to pay for you anymore, and so we won’t.

And that doesn’t work for me.

Leave a Comment

  • Bob Stevens June 27, 2012, 4:14 pm

    Well put Kyle and while I am sure most tax payers want a fair and equitable system with those seeking to rort the system given short shift the inital contract Government had with the citizens of New Zealand when ACC was introduced has been sorely changed by continual tampering. National when Bill Birch was Minister of ACC and his lot whipped the compensation rug from under our feet, I know I was a 80{1b812f7ed7a77644fff58caf46676f6948311bf403a3d395b7a7f87010507f87} work related recipient following being squashed when knocked off my bike by an errant moltorist 1986 and while I survived how many others after the three months ACC gives for claimants to find employment once the injury is deemed stable as will be have ended up on either a sickness benifit or struggling to meet basic needs. It was my amition to get out of the system and I had the ability to do that but not everyone can.

    Except is certain circumstances we all lost the right to litigate and that was initially a good thing as the ones most advantaged by that were lawyers but now we are not able to take civil proceedings, don’t have a financial compenation system or what is paid is peanuts and now the bean-counters want to have another go at disenfranchising those suffering from accident injuries that changes lives. As a senior detective I was on a good salary and then hullo I am on my own, no job and after National took that away no compensation. That I was left severaly incapacitated by my injuries with lifelong pain and other issues no money would recompence it is a slap in the face for those currently finding themselves in the position I was when at least then there was far greater support for the first few years, it must be scary and gut wrenching.

    Either we have a compensation system that provides ongoing care and financial support for genuine victims of injury or we will end up with people whose lives ruined by disability simply giving up and becoming depressed and then costing far more in hospital services be that mental health or otherwise. ACC are now very good at refusing treatment for past injuries with their standard line of the problem being one of gradual decline and not the original injury. Ask any GP or orthopeadic surgeon for confirmation of that.

    • Off the Couch: Kyle MacDonald June 27, 2012, 8:43 pm

      Thanks Bob, I agree ACC at it’s best is a fair and reasonable system, and one that can do a great deal of good. At it’s worst it does a great deal of harm.

  • Geoff June 27, 2012, 4:28 pm

    Well put; I’m simply stunned and winded by the developments in the last few days. This article says it all for me:; watching the video brings tears to my eyes at the audacity of this collective bureaucracy and to call it a misunderstanding when the past several weeks suggest bullying tactics are systemic and sanctioned; obviously hope for the law to be fair handed does not lie in that direction. NZ’s culture of fairness to all just died a little more at the hands of Corporate Style governance. Watch out for the ACC Juggernaut now as it has now shown, that in the face of full blown perversity, it has the full support of the Government to rape and pillage vulnerable Kiwi’s – here, here for power suppressing fairness, truth and justice for all. What high minded impressive Ego’s they must have, yet I am left somewhat sad in their shadow; as I would in the shadow of the Grim Reaper.

    • Off the Couch: Kyle MacDonald June 27, 2012, 8:46 pm

      I was also shocked by that story, I struggle to understand what frame of mind the case manager/ system must be in to leap to that level of response, especially when speech difficulties are part of his clinical presentation!

      • Unicorn June 27, 2012, 9:42 pm

        Obviously the Case Manager knew he was doing something dodgy to the claimant…otherwise why be so paranoid!?

        Or maybe ACC have put themselves on high alert with NZ Police, due to the fact that they are being so Nazi-like in their behaviour, and are aware that some claimants may very well want to “stand up for themselves” coz theyre fed up with the “continual abuse they get from Case Managers, and ACC in general”.

        Well good on ACC huh…Now theyve shown us all exactly what will happen to you if you want to take a piece of paper down to your Case Manager, to show them that you are right, and they are wrong!
        Bullyforyou ACC.

        This Case Manager should be sacked instantly!!

  • Elaine June 27, 2012, 5:26 pm

    Come on you guys, how about bringing a little balance into these discussions for a change. There are people – yes even in our own practices – who shouldn’t still be receiving accident compensation. We need to be careful that we’re not so hell bent on rubbishing ACC that we are, maybe unwittingly, hindering the mental and physical recovery of the very people we are trying to help, by sometimes buying into nebulous complaints. I challenge all contributors to this blog to, hand on heart, say that this isn’t true – that you personally have never had your doubts.

    • Off the Couch: Kyle MacDonald June 27, 2012, 8:50 pm

      If the point of view expressed seems unbalanced, it’s because it is. My writing is intended to be a counterpoint, to highlight the absence of good clinical sense, and normal human compassion that has existed in this Governments handling of the ACC. I don’t contend people never rip systems off, just that treating all as if they do is bigoted, and that decisions about treatment or benefits should be made by clinicians and/ or truly independent assessors. As it stands currently neither makes those decisions.

    • Unicorn June 27, 2012, 10:10 pm

      Elaine your head is buried in the sand!!

      If a person is disentitled from their ACC weekly Compensation, when they are not yet rehabilitated, they will be put onto an Invalids Benefit (which means no propensity for work), a Sickness Benefit (which means some propensity for work), or onto no income coz their partner works.

      Its quite obvious even to an uneducated person, that if you get the Invalids Benefit then obviously ACC have done wrong by kicking you off your entitlement to weekly compensation. Obviously you are not rehabilitated, and you have been wronged at the whim of a clerical worker bureaucrat (ACC Case Manager).

      Some people find it hard to really LOOK at a person who is disabled, and in a wheelchair, or physically or psychologically disfigured in some way. I think its this way with the government, and ACC staff, and people like you – the inability to LOOK the disabled or the disability in the eye. Ignoring it WILL NOT make it go away. It still exists in reality – just not in the eyes of the blind ignorant, who dont want to be bothered enough to see.

      REMEMBER!! We used to work and take care of ourselves. We used to play sport, and run around with our children.
      Then some drunk put us in a wheelchair, or a rapist disfigured us physically and psychologically, or we had an accident at work, got brain injury due to being beaten up!. Whatever the personal situation – it is new, and brings a new way of life for the victims and survivors and the families of these accidents or crimes.
      It is these people that are being further victimised by ACC right now.

      Personally, I think its disgusting.
      John Keys mother needs to have a good talking to her son. Surely she cannot be proud of THAT kind of callous behaviour.

  • K June 28, 2012, 9:57 pm

    I’m on a sickness benefit and desperately trying to build myself up to getting some form of income seperate from WINZ.

    When I read the article in the paper about the targets I was very concerned as I have to fight to make sure my needs due to my illness are met. Last year I became so desperate for a way out I wrote to the Minister to ask her to increase the funding for Enterprise Allowance Grants.

    This is because the current system is mainly focused on jobs through employers. Running a business is in my case substantially easier to achieve than traditional employment. I’d really love to see the government match the enthusiasm with which they announced this target with actual funding for those of us who are willing.

    And, there are many. In one of the two week Small Business Courses funded by Work and Income I attended last year there were 13 of us. In order to attend we had to be “disadvantaged” in the employment market (eg. criminal convictions, sickness) and that we couldn’t obtain funding to start a business from another source. We were told there was funding available for two of us, the rest of us would have to try to find another way to start our business, stay on a benefit or try for one of those jobs we had trouble getting in the first place….

    • K June 28, 2012, 10:06 pm

      I’ve been on a benefit since 1996 – in other words one of the people they will be targeting. I’d be quite happy to be targeted if I could just get my needs met in terms of accommodating my illness, but my fear is that this isn’t going to happen.

      • Geoff June 29, 2012, 12:28 am

        I feel your pain K; I know where you are coming from because, like you, we are in a predicament of circumstances created through the actions of a convicted felon, all we asked was for some security and dignity while we worked things out, however that is not easy, as soon as it looks like you’re having a go the support disappears, and if it goes pear shaped again you’re worse off than before because you have no resources left to call on; so you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

        Unfortunately, these days there exists a Government led determination to encourage the employed public to discriminate against anyone receiving money other than from their own work as the cockroaches of society. I say this after listening to Government responses to the ACC debacle where Government Ministers have used carefully chosen words to convey there support of the status-quo and also to tonight’s televised speech of Mr Bill English speaking to the Federated Farmers conference where he said he favoured Drug Testing of “all” beneficiaries. The implication being that they (beneficiaries) are collectively, no good, undeserving scoundrels, shirking their duties and wasting taxpayers money on Dope and other contraband instead of feeding their kids; this statement received raucous applause and support from the assembled Farmers.

        This illustrates the Governments success in its aim to entrench discrimination against beneficiaries. I thought McCarthyism died with the 50’s Red Necks, however this film footage of the Rt. Hon. Mr English shows it is alive and well within the National Party of NZ. I find it hard to grasp that these same Farmers (and not just Farmers of course, probably a few politicians) received compensation from the Tax Payer funded Deposit Guarantee scheme that was rushed in, in 2008 to protect predominantly wealthy NZ’rs when their ill considered investments were threatened by a Investment Bank failures. Taxpayers have paid out more than $1.9 billion, with the lion’s share going to South Canterbury Finance investors. Perhaps these people should be earmarked for Drug Testing too, although for some reason this was not termed a welfare payment! I bet no one has had to stand up and say my investment went bad and I received welfare from the Government – all very hush hush and I offer the analogy of “speak with forked tongue”. I’m sure they would be rather red faced if flushed out after the visual glee they collectively expressed at the thought of beneficiaries further misfortune at the hands of an unrelenting Government.

        Anyway K stay strong, as you have proven to be because the struggles you have been through have revealed to you that you are capable of surviving and thriving in the toughest of odds. This moment is all we have to make a difference to others in our situation after all.

        Explanation of Terms and references:
        McCarthyism taken in the following sense “McCarthyism soon took on a broader meaning, describing the excesses of similar efforts. The term is also now used more generally to describe reckless, unsubstantiated accusations, as well as demagogic attacks on the character or patriotism of political adversaries.” (Wikipedia)

        New Zealand announced an opt-in scheme for retail deposits on October 12, 2008 [46]. An extension to the scheme was announced on 25 August, 2009 and the scheme ran until 31 December 2011[47]. From 1 January 2012 bank deposits in New Zealand are not protected by the Government. (Wikipedia)

  • K June 29, 2012, 9:16 am

    Thanks Geoff for your kind words. When you pointed out, “as soon as it looks like you’re having a go the support disappears” this is certainly true in my case.

    Ironically if I actually had alcohol or drug issues (or failing that even a minor gambling issue might help), or abused my children I would have better supports because that is what it takes to been seen as having “serious” issues. My gosh, I don’t even drink caffeinated drinks as it worsens my mental state ever so slightly and I seek whatever edge I can get to move into a better place : )

    • Geoff June 29, 2012, 12:06 pm

      I have to say the perpetrator got and receives better treatment than my wife and daughter! It’s an upside down World we are living in where lieing and deceit are rewarded in the Public Service.

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