Where there’s smoke…

When all this ACC carry on about Sensitive Claims kicked off in 2009, and I started this blog, I had no idea that three years later I’d still be banging on about the problems and difficulties claimants and professionals encounter.

I’ve become one of those people who have become embattled with ACC, albeit for a much different reason and with none of the consequences experienced by many claimants.

Stories that have begun to break about Bronwyn Pullar that suggest she has been fighting for ten years.  There are also many, many others who don’t have such powerful friends.

And this reaction to the ACC has been of interest to me as a psychotherapist, and I believe in many ways unique to the ACC.  So what is it about ACC that means that people fight and keep fighting with them?

Part of any successful therapy is to help people, particularly survivors of abuse, neglect and mis-treatment in childhood, construct a cohesive and believable narrative that explains their current struggles, difficulties and responses.  Despite what ACC’s experts sometimes represent to clients and what elements of our culture also promulgates, our past wounds and trauma do have a lasting effect.

Many of us might take this sense of our past and our present being integrated and “making sense” for granted.  We can validate ourselves, and as a result our present experience of ourselves also makes sense.

To not have that experience:  to not be able to understand ourselves and our feelings, to feel as if they are invalid, random, scary and make no sense is as good a definition as I’ve ever come across of what feeling “crazy” actually feels like.

It’s also an understandable and predictable outcome of abuse.  Abuse is invalidating by it’s very nature: the abuser acts in way that makes it clear that “your pain and suffering makes no difference to me”.

This is why I have welcomed the resignation of Dr. Smith.  Not because of any feelings towards him as a person, or as an MP, or even his politics.

To me I was hugely relieved because for the first time it is beginning to feel like what myself and many, many others have been saying makes sense, that there is something fundamentally wrong with how the ACC operates and they are failing in their social contract with all New Zealander’s.

And it is also why I support the growing call for a full and independent enquiry into the ACC, by Green party MP Kevin Hague and others.  A full review of this nature offers the promise of actually validating the many people who have been fighting and protesting the ACC for many years, not because we are obsessed, crazy, or damaged.  But because there is actually something wrong.

To validate and take these concerns seriously, and moreover to actually start fixing the culture of denial and address the accusations of corruption would do more for many peoples recovery than any professional ever could.

It would also mean that many people, including Bronwyn Pullar, could actually get on with their lives.

Leave a Comment

  • kea March 22, 2012, 1:32 pm

    Thanks for your Blog post, you have hit the nail on the head. We as advocates and family members of ACC Covered Claimants have had to act in a vacuum against ACC; yet this latest event has uncovered that we are all experiencing the same pain at the hands of the ACC. Our similar experiences, collectively reflect the pain and suffering that this organisation is inflicting on claimants.

    I have been fighting for my wife and daughter via Sensitive Claims for 17 years. It appears that the Rt Hon Nick Smith fell on his sword, as that was the lesser of two Evils; the major one being an investigation of ACC. The demise of Nick Smith is seen as the pressure relief valve to diffuse the attention being focused on the ACC and it’s unsavoury and questionable compensation avoidance tactics.

    The Government, of any persuasion will never lift the lid and investigate the actions of ACC. Such scrutiny would show that no Government is immune from turning a blind eye to leaving vulnerable, poor, ill equipped, battered and abused children; who are now grown Women and no doubt Men, to further abuse at the hands of a heartless and systemic expert law evader in ACC. Such systemic evasion, as evidenced by successive Governments lack of remedial action, suggests that ACC’s activities have the blessing of all elected Ministers of the Crown.

    Due to ACC’s failure to act fairly, promptly and in accordance with the Act, my family has been raised in very difficult circumstances with our lives being in constant turmoil and poverty. It is interesting to note that both the UK and Australia have in recent times moved to support and encourage the Sexually abused and have in fact given Parliamentary apologies to those affected thereby clearing the way for healing and fair and reasonable reparation.

    I have written numerous letters to various Government Ministers without success over many years; the standard response is that ACC has many mechanisms set up to remedy disputes. Such an answer ignores the level of education, mental state and ability of the claimants to act against a well resourced and skilled Corporation. Also, such a response inevitably means the claimant must expend large amounts of time and energy pursuing Reviews and Appeals while undergoing a never ending string of Assessments that have been requested by ACC to address a briefing written by it. Such actions can take many years and even if successful, the ACC just contemptuously, starts the process form the beginning again, hoping that you will either go bankrupt or give up from the continued stress and frustration and end up destitute and deranged!

    My now grown sons, say I should right a book about the labyrinth; but then who would ever believe the litany of evasion, employed against mere babes, by a legally bound Government entity.

  • David Wadsworth March 22, 2012, 1:59 pm

    100{1b812f7ed7a77644fff58caf46676f6948311bf403a3d395b7a7f87010507f87} agree

  • Beth Webster March 22, 2012, 3:11 pm

    Many and warmest congratulats Kyle- especially for the hugest energies and appropriate perspective as you see our country’s efforts at providing some compensations for what we still keep finding.as needed…
    Great leadership ! Do spread it around…

  • Katarina Broughton March 22, 2012, 4:09 pm

    I agree a 100{1b812f7ed7a77644fff58caf46676f6948311bf403a3d395b7a7f87010507f87} with all you have said.

  • Robyn March 22, 2012, 4:10 pm

    I am left wondering where people like Nick Smith will go if he seeks treatment. He must surely now understand what it feels like to be a victim. All this crap will blow the budget for sure. But in saying that, oh how I would hate to work there….

  • Kevin Owen March 22, 2012, 4:43 pm

    There is something fundamentally wrong with ACC. The main thing I see is that it has very limited ability to help someone through trauma. Most of its practioners are treating the symptoms of truama so the person keeps on coming back, hoping ACC will do something, when infact the practioners are not capabile of doing much for the person. The skills of the psychiatrist, psychologist, psych psychotherapist, counselor are very limited and don’t do much more than treat the symptoms and counsel a person, hoping they might get better.

  • renee leigh March 23, 2012, 3:33 pm

    Nick smith begged for some compassion from the press. Where was his when he made funding decisions that destroyed the lives of sexual abuse survivors nationwide and ignored the expert advice from national body groups?

  • Unicorn March 23, 2012, 10:55 pm

    Hello Kyle,

    Reading through all this has made me cry. You have got it all spot on. Thankyou so much.

    Is something really going to be done? I cant believe it! Ive been praying hard out that the evil and corruption that is ACC today will be exposed. Is it really going to happen….No more abuse, and threats, and bullying from those who are supposed to be helping us. I cant believe it… and I cant wait to see what happens next….. Godbless you Kyle : )

    Hello “kea”
    FYI, In 2002 ACCs contempt did cause me to go bankrupt, and become homeless, and destitute, and deranged. And I just came out of the bankruptsy in September 2011, and then in November 2011, THEY DO IT TO ME ALL OVER AGAIN. I am about to be homeless again very soon – my savings are all gone, and Ive sold my car to survive, while waiting for my review date in mid May….I have no idea what will happen next for me – while I wait for review.

    There are bound to be others out there with a similar story and Id just like to say how sorry I feel for all of you….and I do, feel very sorry for everyone who has to deal with the ACC. Godbless us all.

  • Fracticus March 24, 2012, 3:24 pm

    I am with you on this Kyle 100{1b812f7ed7a77644fff58caf46676f6948311bf403a3d395b7a7f87010507f87} and have urged the Auditor General to proceed with an enquiry. I have reminded him that I’m still concerned that the same issues were raised by retired Chief District Court Judge, Peter Trapski, in his Official Enquiry in 1994/96. There is a systemic problem here.

    A fundamental problem is that ACC fails in it’s most primary obligation; to “treat the injury”. Mild, moderate or even moderately-severe brain injured (mABI | msABI) patients don’t “recover” and certainly not by using the “cure” of Work-Is-Good-For-You (WIGFY). “Treating the injury” means teaching them how recover from the grief of such a fundamental loss of faculty and of being now “less than” – less than they were, less than they hoped and dreamed they could be. It is a crushing blow to “self” and self-worth/self-esteem. They must be taught how and why their damaged brains don’t work properly and trained in how to manage a life around all those maddening deficits and little defeats – they need techniques and tools for unreliable working memory, how to manage distraction and subtle behavioural changes such as disinhibition and other executive failings. They need instruction on how old and intact learning can be co-opted to help create new routines. Get that right and they can go back to what they were doing, perhaps a rung or two down, but alive, happy and making their contribution – not socially isolated and defeated. The last thing they need is ACC’s demoralising “paint-by-numbers”, vocational rehabilitation process, new learning which doesn’t “stick” and seeing “Parking attendant” on a list of potential jobs when they’re still grief stricken by their loss of career as a Chemical Research Analyst, aged 29 with the world and a glittering future, once at their feet.

    Clients with brain injury or cognitive deficits are especially vulnerable, being easily confused by complex legislation when repeatedly badgered and distracted by threats of disentitlement for failure to cooperate. All correspondence demanding attendance is typically crude, blaming, accusative and aggressive; in short, offensive. Claimants who have always met their obligations are left wondering why they need to be threatened in this way. ACC knows of course, that they’ll be so enraged, distracted by the insult and coercion, they will not be focussed on the lawfulness of the demands, nor will they know where to check for the statutory entry point.

    Lives literally, can be ruined and families destroyed when support is withheld or withdrawn following “creative” re-diagnosis for the purposes of “actuarial release”. As Hazel Armstrong has demonstrated, it is designed to move these “risks” onto welfare benefits at WINZ, thereby cutting costs. That’s not the deal and it fractures the ground the scheme is built upon – the Social Contract. The ACC rationale; that the end justifies the means, is ethically bereft of any substance in the “no-fault” context. In the “fully-funded” context, it is charging levies for one level of care and delivering another – failing to pay out on risk. It is cheating. It is fraud. It has turned ACC staff into a new elite – NZ’s only government-sanctioned, native criminal class, who are the new beneficial owners of ACC, deriving substantial rewards for practising their peculiar brand of psychopathy. Fully informed consent (your awareness as the prey) is anathema to this happy band of predators. The “fully funded” cash barrel is their nirvana – their KPI bonus teat.

    All ACC can offer is a relentless and inappropriate routine, based on the belief (they would!) that full time employment cures everything. They want you to learn by failing on the job, thus shifting the burden and cost of this “failure to treat”, back on your shoulders. It doesn’t work and ABI’s linger on the rolls, getting worse by the day and developing bad habits, PTSD and all manner of dysfunctional adaptations, which now become new “symptoms” with which you can be “re-diagnosed” and “actuarially released”! Now isn’t that rich?! They fail to “treat your injury”, going to great lengths to deny it even exists. You predictably become more dysfunctional and develop quite predictable symptoms. The apparent scepticism and denial over your suffering makes you angry, aggressive, paranoid and, well, desperate. Maybe with some justification, you become belligerent and non-cooperative. ACC then seize on these symptoms and re-diagnose your injury as a means to getting rid of you. How bad is that? What kind of organisational culture would set out to drive an injured person crazy, in order to deny paying out on a fully funded risk? An evil empire run by psychopaths would do the trick. Is that what’s become of NZ’s ‘world beating’ Social Contract? Are there so many cunning and clever malingerers beating down the door that this has become necessary? Are they that hard to weed out? The answer is, “NO!”. This is shameful stuff and it should engender outrage in the community.

    ACC preach the “work is good for you” fiction as ‘scientific’ medical evidence, conducive to healthy “recovery”. This “research” is bogus and nothing less than an insurance company hoax paraded as mantra within and beyond the current corporate culture whereas, it is the antithesis of the evidence-based model ACC itself espouses. There is no “recovery” from the core problems of brain injury. If by “work” we mean “constructive or purposeful activity”, then the mantra is harmless enough and adds nothing to common sense, but it doesn’t – for ACC it means “paid full time employment”- nothing less. And the mantra implies, as intended, that those who don’t or cannot, will be malingerers or work-shy cowards not trying hard enough; in need of some self-injected spinal testosterone and just not “participating” – yet another euphemism for the same thing. “Harden up and get out of here.” – that is the message here. IS THAT WHAT WE PAY OUR PREMIUMS FOR?

    Of course, ACC simply doesn’t have a program for the brain injured to plug into, so claimants appear to be inadequate and failing, weak, timid and lacking, in vision, enthusiasm and testosterone. This is where the blame-game starts and ABI’s are being made responsible for what are merely the signs and symptoms of injury and lack of proper treatment, common to all in this cohort. Mantra, exhortations, buzz-words and brute force won’t heal the busted brain, but they create for the long-term cognitively damaged claimant, a situation of induced low self-esteem and low mood, without providing answers. Blended into their existing confusion over societal expectations, scepticism about “invisible injury” and with inconsistent treatment, their lives descend into hopelessness and despair, fully blown depressive illness and new mental injury. IT IS ABUSE! and ACC should take more care in continuing to insensitively promote this all-or-nothing approach. It is a “blame-game” which has iatrogenic failure burned into it and into the efforts of all those who unthinkingly support, condone and encourage it.

    ACC is not your friend in need any more. It is hopelessly corrupted from the very top, as recent events demonstrate, being long overdue for overhaul and a cultural cleanout. There is a siege mentality and a decided lack of wisdom and mature life experience reflected in that culture. What is damning, is the essential dishonesty that fuels this beast and disadvantages the poor, the poorly educated and most vulnerable in our midst. It’s a sick and dirty paradigm that needs replacing before it completely rots the social fabric and creates a divisiveness that consumes us all.

    Graham Willson BE MSc MBA
    principal | biologic medico-legal

  • Unicorn March 24, 2012, 4:25 pm

    Yay! GO GRAHAM WILSON. I hope you get that published somewhere really obvious. Godbless you : )

  • kea March 24, 2012, 11:53 pm

    Hi Graham,

    That is spot on; your contribution has verified my own point of view gained through direct experience. I can attest to the effects that you describe. Thanks for putting it so lucidly. I really do pray that an independent review is made of the ACC and it’s failure to uphold the Act; however this has been going on for so long, and MP’s of both Governing persuasions are not stupid, as they all will have received “letters”, therefore I suspect they must be complicit.

    I like this from Jane Cliffton’s latest Listener article: “What was Nick Smith thinking”, because it really describes the collective and enlightened Public feeling toward “Mental Injuries”. I can see their nodding heads as they empathise with Jane’s point of view.


    “We all know someone like this, because they “holdeth one of three” to tell their tale of woe. And we sympathise. We really do. But at some point in such people’s terrible journey, their world has become so small that their albatross has become everything to them. At this point, the only sensible, humane advice anyone can give them is to rule a line under the atrocity, pick up what’s left of their psyches and, as Helen Clark would say, Move On.”

    “Move On” – such a tasty little “I did it myself so why can’t you” Cliche that is totally lacking of Empathy of course, as many of the issues with ACC failures, revolve around childhood sexual abuse where such a cliche becomes particularly inappropriate and abhorrent. There is a reason they are called Mental Injuries – Move On just doesn’t apply anymore, unless you can magically jaw bone the injury into being a “Not Injury”.

    That aside, Jane’s euphemism of the Albatross being the ever growing focus of the claimant, on affliction, is so apt for the ACC:

    ACC = Albatross Chick Corporation, their Mascot could be called “Ab the Albatross” – Ab being short for Abuse.
    Come to us and we’ll ensure you get the cutest little chick full of promise of compassionate and fair treatment, keep calling back and we’ll turn that promised chick into the heaviest, evilest, dead weight of no hope you could ever imagine – the Frankenstein of all Albatross. If you think you have problems now you haven’t seen what we, as Albatross ring masters can do to you!

    No, No, lets move away from here, I like Albatross this just gives them a bad rap, one which doesn’t even deserve to be discussed in the same breath as ACC.


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