Someone really should tell them

So I’ve been worried lately I might have been a little harsh on ACC. It is possible, even likely I thought, that they actually don’t know that their public statements are ill-informed.

Likely, I thought because if they do know then that means senior ACC managers and maybe even the Minster Hon. Nick Smith are lying to us, and I can’t believe that.

Let me explain:

Throughout this process ACC has repeatedly stated that the new pathways are based on empirical evidence and supported by best practice.

“An important focus is ensuring that clients receive treatment which reflects the latest evidence”  ProviderFAQs(FINAL), ACC;   and   “New approach reflects evidence-based, best practice.” ACC Press Release 28/10/09

However the professional associations of psychotherapy, psychology, clinical psychology, counselling, social work, Doctors for Sexual Abuse Care, the National Council of Women and almost 4000 individuals who signed my online petition disagree. Are they all lying?

The Massey University researchers, who penned the document repeatedly cited by the Minister and ACC as “the research” this is all based on, also disagree.

In fact they have publicly distanced themselves in a letter to the Dominion here. A few of the researchers, who wish to remain nameless, also signed the online petition.

Are they lying? Surely we can assume they know what they’re talking about, or at least know what their own research says, and doesn’t say? That’s their job right?

Ok, so what about DSM IV diagnosis? Surely ACC got this one right, they seems really convinced:

“We [ACC] have always required a mental health diagnosis. We have been inconsistent in the past in adhering to what the legislation says… …We do not cover an event. We provide cover for an injury. In the case of a sensitive claim, the wording of the legislation is ‘a significant mental injury caused by that event’… …”The ‘mental injury’ definition is ‘a significant cognitive, behavioural or emotional dysfunction’, and the way the legislation is framed, and the way court decisions have followed from that, points to the need to have a DSM-IV diagnosis.” NZ Herald, 29/09/09.

So if they’re so sure of this, why did ACC back down at the last minute and decide to allow clincians to use an alternative diagnostic framework? I mean some people just threatened legal action, (NZ Herald, 29/10/09) and if they were really sure then you’d think they’d stick to their principles. Sensitive Claims have been running for 20 years, are they saying that all those people, for all those years got this wrong?

They seem a bit confused too about other agencies that could help victims of sexual abuse. ACC has attempted to calm all our concerns by reassuring us that there are “other agencies” that ACC funds that can help:

He said sexual abuse victims who did not have a DSM-IV mental illness could still go to rape crisis agencies. “There are a range of agencies that deal with that. ACC does contribute some funding towards those types of services,” he said.
But Dr McGregor said ACC had cancelled its $350,000 a year funding for the Auckland Sexual Abuse Help Foundation from the end of next month and funding for other agencies was “not common” NZ Herald, 29/10/09

You see, now I’m really confused. Kim McGregor is a doctor, and she can’t be lying can she?

Never, at any point has this been about money, according to ACC.  Seems a bit strange right, seeing ACC are in so much financial trouble. But we have been repeatedly reassured by ACC:

“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. An important focus is ensuring that clients receive treatment which reflects the latest evidence, and improves their rehabilitation to everyday life, and work where applicable.
To achieve these goals, we are strengthening the clinical focus of the SCU.”   ProviderFAQs(FINAL)

But then this:

“ACC Southern Manager Karen Walsh, speaking at Fairlie Lions Club on Thursday 19 November revealed that it is ACC policy to reduce the number of Sensitive Claims.” Scoop Press Release from NZAC, 22/11/09.

Maybe Karen Walsh was confused, had too many wines at the Lions dinner, or is she lying? Maybe it’s not about money, they’re just too busy, too many claims. But then they could just hire more staff, but that costs…. see what I mean?

Lastly I’m most worried that the clinical staff in the unit don’t really seem to understand sexual abuse or even the law. For instance I’ve heard of a couple of decisions recently:

A claimant whose abuse was turned down due to it being judged to not be abuse, because she was a child and the offender was a child, and she didn’t tell anyone.

But ACC cover the injury, not the event, so surely they would know if their staff were doing something different than this?

Another example: a client was co-erced using intimidation and violence, into sexual behaviour over the course of months by an 18 year old boy. She was 12. Parents were dysfunctional and allowed him to live with them, and “condoned it.” Claim was declined due to sex being “consensual.”

Surely you’d think they’d know under the law it isn’t possible for a 12 year old to consent?

So I think we should all help ACC out. Seems their staff have really let them down, letting them make all these statements to the press and sending out all these letters that someone should have proofed.  They also seem to have no idea how much of a mess things are in down in the Sensitive Claims Unit.

If you were to, say,  Google ”Dr Peter Jansen” the ACC Medical Senior Directorate and read this document, you would see he asks for anyone with concerns to email him at

Perhaps you should let him know? Perhaps we all should.

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