Not cute

I think that politics and psychotherapy are worlds apart, and largely in the different ways they approach the truth.  Psychotherapy is largely the search for the truth along with understanding and validating one persons experience of it.

Politics these days seems to be largely about the manipulation of the truth, to most closely match whatever agenda is being pushed.  In some ways I can live with that, it’s what I expect from politicians and a healthy news media can assist us to dive into the debate and decide who and what we want to believe.  But it’s much harder to take from a public organization charged with the care and treatment of all New Zealander’s.

Both of the recent reports into the ACC by the Auditor General and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner  point to “culture problems” within the ACC.  (See: “Dual investigations shows culture problems at the ACC“).  In my view this starts to get us to the heart of the problems that have plagued the Sensitive Claims Unit for a number of years.  I believe the culture problem that exists within the ACC’s Senior Management is an ongoing pattern of cynical manipulation of the truth for financial and political gain.  And sometimes blatant self -preservation.

For example when the now infamous Sensitive Claims “New Pathway” was introduced back in 2009 it was repeatedly and vigorously denied that this had anything to do with cutting costs, but was instead about providing a higher level of care.:

 “1.    Are the changes ACC is making really just about saving money?

No, the driver for these changes has always been to provide survivors of sexual abuse or assault who have a mental injury with a better level of assistance, and to help them achieve a more timely and successful recovery.”  (See: Provider FAQs(FINAL))


We now know it was all about cutting costs (at the direction of the then Minister of the ACC Hon. Dr. Nick Smith) and did nothing to improve care, in fact it nearly destroyed the provision of sexual abuse treatment in this country.

At the time these changes were happening in 2010 I pointed this out and was threatened with legal action. (See “Someone really should tell them.“)

ACC also vigorously denied that there was a concerted plan to get the long term and expensive claims off the scheme. (See: “The Swamp Creatures.”)  That’s very hard to deny now we have a detailed transcript of Denise Cosgrove and Senior ACC Actuary Wayne Anderson outlining a very detailed actuarial plan to do exactly that at a conference in Australia in 2011.  The only thing we got wrong was they are not swamp dwellers. But low hanging fruit (See: “Low Hanging Fruit“).

 “ACC should be viewed as insurance and not social welfare and this has permeated itself through the way the organisation is run now… …help those who you are supposed to help ,but the reality was… under the political thing [change between Labour and National Governments] the pendulum had probably swung more towards customer focus than towards a financial sustainability” (See: “Low hanging fruit” and click here for audio)

At the same conference Senior Manager Denise Cosgrove also explained that the change process with Sensitive Claims and elective surgery wasn’t handled well, too much press coverage.

“Media – Some concerns around ACC’s approach – especially with elective surgery and sensitive claims”. (See “ACS2011PresentationCosgroveFrank“)


Not that they got it wrong, but they didn’t manage the spin effectively enough.

So when the next roll out of changes earlier this year came out in the area of vocational rehabilitation the independent providers were “gagged” from talking to the media to prevent such annoying interference.  When asked directly by the media about this:

“ACC’s general manager of claims management, Denise Cosgrove, earlier said there was no confidentiality clause in the vocational rehabilitation service contract. However, there are four separate confidentiality clauses in other documents suppliers were required to sign, including one stating they will not make adverse comments to the media.”

Cosgrove has now conceded that her first answer, though “technically correct”, was “cute”.”  (See: “ACC Gags vocational rehabilitation providers“)


Not cute.  Not even vaguely adorable.  In fact quite repulsive.

Now in today’s Dominion-Post we discover that the ACC have also lied about hiring PR consultants to help with the fallout about the Pullar Privacy Breach.  So rather than spending all their time and resources on fixing the problem and providing support to those affected, they spent $450,000 of our money getting help to manipulate the truth in their own favour.  (In case you’re wondering that’s about 5,625 hours of sensitive claims counselling, or enough to provide one year of counselling to 118 individuals.)

Perhaps it was their costly advice that suggested to the ACC the best approach would be to mislead the Police and make unsubstantiated blackmail accusations about Ms. Pullar, without realising that the meeting had been recorded.  Not only did the Police dismiss the ACC’s charges, but also the investigation by the Auditor General and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner upheld all public assertions made by Ms. Pullar. (See: “Blow your own whistle”)  And none made by the ACC about Ms. Pullar’s actions.

Not cute.

To me all of this points to a clear agenda, implemented by the ACC’s Senior Mangers, to cover their own arses (cute or not) and do all that is required to manipulate the truth in their favour, whilst at the same time continuing a profit driven insurance model of  “treatment.”  This is all while everyone involved, including the Minister and the Government, tries to distance themselves from actually being involved or responsible for any of it.

So let’s be clear.  The ACC as an office of the public service shouldn’t be playing politics.  It’s our money, and they are accountable to all of us.  There have now been multiple damning reports into their culture and practices., with more to come.  The Chair of the board is gone, as is most of the board, the Chief Executive Officer and the Minister.

But like some headless zombie in a ‘B’ grade horror, charging mindlessly around despite being decapitated, we all still face the same ongoing problems as those actually in charge of the day to day running are more invested in keeping their well paying jobs and presumably performance related bonuses than helping those in need.

So what’s the silver bullet?  I don’t know.  But I do know lying ain’t cute.  But I guess at the moment, neither’s the truth…

Leave a Comment

  • birdofparadise September 6, 2012, 8:41 pm

    What I do not understand about all the politics is that in order to have our communication heard we have to engage lawyers?! ACC have placed me on a ‘fortnightly’ communication plan – I had my file released and want to query why when an assessor implies in an email to my case manager that I am lying – they then send me to that assessor – who of course gives them reason to disentitle – their second attempt at the cost of $12+k. No rehabilitation mentioned and it was a claim that was given cover back in 1994. So many recommendations that have never been acted upon, deny and decline mentioned over 100 times, BAP comments, TCM comments and decisions, case manager queries and I am left with 350 odd pages of questions and no way of being able to obtain any kind of reply in a timely manner!! I requested to be managed at a local branch so I could ask my questions face to face – denied. Seems from reading forums on the internet those that involve lawyers obtain some result – I agree – not cute!!

  • OnAMission September 7, 2012, 7:45 am

    An industry credible organisation such as Auckland Sexual Abuse Help Foundation or Wellington Rape Crisis should take over the management of the Sensitive Claims Unit thus sweeping out all the useless ACC crowd. We need strong, supportive people in there who understand the law and that ACC is neither welfare nor insurance (as insurance involves consumers who can opt out of policies they don’t agree with).

  • toocute September 7, 2012, 8:19 am

    I am $60k in legal fees in. 5 years of fighting. Constant & wilful Privacy breach’s. Denial of entitlements & treatment. I’ve been completely gagged. My medical reports altered by ACC staff. Forced to “Reviews” on every decision. Caught ACC & DRSL cheating to fix outcomes. I have hundred of pages of exactly what Kyle has posted. ACC believe themselves to be untouchable, the system they create, manage and adjudicate on is unlikely to let them down. The organisation is riddled with corrupt practice, incompetence and quite astonsishingly, blatant liars, including ACC’s go to Medical “experts”, both within and outside the organisation. It takes years and tens of thousands of dollars to receive entitlements. The vast majority of legitimate claimants give up. God help you if you fight. It’s a dirty war in which you have no rights, entitlements, support from within the system nor from outsiders. It’s an unfriendly mix of Police State fascism, Dictatorship brutality, Third world service and failed State politics. That the organisation exists and in fact continues, is a blight on NZ record of fair play & Justice. It is rotten to the core – and thats what Culture means. It is inherent in every individual in the organistaion to lie, cheat, obsfucate, deny, confuse, belittle and finally attack the claimants that remain. An awful, awful place.

  • Geoff September 7, 2012, 2:16 pm

    And that’s it in a nutshell thanks Kyle and @toocute, ACC exists for the $17 Billion Investment it controls and by proxy the incumbent Government controls. The claimants and the Act are irrelevant. Cosgroves name comes up an awful lot in the Press when it comes to the euphemistic term for evasion “cute”. Can we expect a Board posting in the future for this Woman!

  • Gave up long ago September 7, 2012, 5:30 pm

    Whatever they do in the future won’t repair the damage. My life is over. I opted out of ACC, being a low hanging fruit overlooking the swamp covered in blisters from ACC abuse and dirty tricks. Less stress, no future. Still better mentally than before. But nowhere near where I was pre injury……… The corporation failed me, hurt me, abused me and broke me. And they live to abuse others!

    • Unicorn September 7, 2012, 9:53 pm

      Yes. Thats exactly what they do!!!! They live to abuse others, and to reap the benefits of being paid to do it.

    • Geoff September 8, 2012, 12:59 am

      “Gave up” sorry to hear that. Yes it is a long path of havoc they have wreaked on many vulnerable and mostly defenseless claimants who start out believing they are among friends with ACC, people we initially believe are there to smooth what has often been a monstrous and harrowing life that began in childhood.

      Soon though they realise they have entered the little house of horrors and are lambs to the slaughter at the hands of what turn out to be treacherous Monsters that are not dissimilar in their acts of psychological warfare to the original perpetrators. It is true that often the worst abusers are found where the vulnerable congregate – that is natural, it makes getting your kicks a whole lot easier and safer in a cowardly way, cf the childhood predators who are found in children’s social groups.

      What is most difficult to take though, is that the elected representatives who apparently have some modicum of control over these bureaucrats go along with their hienous ways in order to save themselves a buck or billion and maintain what appears to be a vote gaining policy with the middle class and smb’s, naming and shaming anyone who is unable to work regardless of their disability and right to ACC legislated cover.

      At least the Australians and British have had the courage to come out as a collective country and apologised for the monstrosities that happened to it’s Children in days past and given serious attention to their plight; for example in the UK they withdrew the defence of Statute of Limitation preventing children from charging their attackers as Adults. New Zealand seems to be less enlightened in it’s approach and this darkness of course protects those that would offend again. I agree with the report that stated “ACC is not the place for Sensitive Claims”; ACC and Sensitive in the same breath – it’s an oxymoron without the oxy as it is rather suffocating.

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