ACC staff knowingly flout ACC legislation
By Dave Crampton
ACC case managers have been forcing claimants to suspect dodgy rehabilitation plans all year round by sending standard “form” or “computer” letters, sanctioned by senior staff. The letters stipulate that every page in the rehabilitation plan be signed and returned by the end of the following week or weekly compensation payments will be cut. Senior staff and some case managers must know that these letters, and the rehabilitation plans, are suspect and contravene provisions in the Injury Prevention, Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2001, as rehabilitation plans can be implemented without agreement or signature. Therefore there is no need to threaten suspension upon refusal to sign.
A rehabilitation plan is the basis for planning the rehabilitation of a claimant and is a legislative requirement after a claimant has been on ACC for 13 weeks. Plans detail the assessments and rehabilitation requirements to ensure claimants are rehabilitated off ACC. Yet claimants, as well as the claimant’s GP and advocates, have had no input into the development and costing of the plan as required by ACC legislation. This has serious implications on a claimant’s recovery and future entitlements. The majority of cases where dodgy assessment and rehabilitation plans are issued to are long term or Catalyst claimants, some who have signed earlier rehabilitation plans that have not delivered.
Yet in written questions to ACC, the Corporation replied that it was not only policy, but standard practice for all claimants, employers, advocates and medical doctors to be involved in the costing, developing and content of all rehabilitation plans.
If that is the case, why do claimants receive rehabilitation plans along with strongly worded letters signed by case managers stating, “Please be advised that failure to contact me (within seven days) or return this document may result in your weekly compensation being suspended?” These claimants have not seen the plans before and were asked to sign within 10 days. This is against corporation legislation as well as case law. At least one District Court judge has said that a plan without entitlements and consultation is nothing more than a proposal. As it is not a valid contract, it is unenforceable, the judge says.
An ACC spokesperson told the Sunday Star Times, “The processes outlined in (such letters) is not the way that ACC seeks to do things”. If that is the case, the very least ACC could do is amend their standard letters that are sanctioned by senior ACC staff to comply with legislation.
Following Scoop’s last column on the issue, ACC said it would conduct an internal investigation after the Sunday Star Times agreed to follow up on the story. The ACC spokesperson told the paper that “the corporation seeks to reach agreement with such claimants to the plan and provides reasonable time for this to happen”. If that is the case, why have legislation stating claimants must be involved in the preparation and costing of such plans if all ACC do is aim to reach agreement after such plans have been costed and prepared by case managers? In many cases no agreement has been reached and the corporation bullies claimants into signing plans – in some cases within six days.
Suspicions have been raised that claimants are being bullied to sign rehabilitation plans because a change in legislation last year allows the implementation of unsigned plans. Previously, case managers were not able to implement rehabilitation plans unless the claimant agreed – and many didn’t because the plans were dodgy. Now ACC think it has every right to implement dodgy plans without signatures. But it should not implement any plans if claimants have not been involved in the preparation and costing of the plan.
Scoop has evidence that
rehabilitation plans are being ignored and abused as soon as
they are signed. Claimants are not always getting copies of
the signed plans as required. Some claimants disagree with
the content of the plans and have told ACC so while signing
under duress – even with their legal representatives
present. Others have altered their plans and had them
returned by case managers demanding they sign the plan in
the original form. This makes a mockery of a case manager’s
assertion that a rehabilitation plan is an agreement between