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New Act steers ACC’s direction

New Act steers ACC’s direction

Injury prevention and rehabilitation continue to the forefront in ACC’s first half-year since the passage of the Injury Prevention, Rehabilitation, and Compensation Act which came into force last April.

The six months ended in December 2002 saw a host of initiatives aimed at reducing injuries in the workplace, on the roads, at home and in sports and recreation.

Among them were the FarmSafe programme developed with Federated Farmers and other stakeholders in the rural sector where one farmer is killed every three weeks and 11 are seriously injured.

The ThinkSafe Summer injury prevention message was also taken to children, road users, swimmers and boaties in ACC’s biggest-ever summer injury prevention campaign. Demand for more than 400,000 activity books exceeded expectations.

The Act’s second objective of rehabilitation saw further emphasis on improving rehabilitation rates with a return to work or independence rate now among the world’s best.

The half-year also saw improvements in services to claimants with recent surveys by BRC Marketing & Social Research showing 84 percent satisfied with ACC’s performance, comfortably exceeding a target of 80 percent.

"New procedures provide more effective case management and the high percentage of claimants who are happy with ACC’s performance is a heartening achievement which consistently exceeds our 80 percent target," said ACC chief executive Garry Wilson said.

Since December, further measures have been implemented that help people in their dealings with ACC.

In February, the Code of ACC Claimants’ Rights came into effect and that has since been followed by the creation of the ACC Consumers Outlook Group.

The first-half surplus of $23.1 million compares with $33.8 million in the same period of 2001.

Levy income and rehabilitation and compensation entitlements were much in line with budget although weak equity markets resulted in a lower-than-expected investment performance.

"ACC is nevertheless pleased with the results it achieved in difficult conditions that resulted in many other fund managers producing negative results," Mr Wilson said.

All the surpluses will be put towards the payment of entitlement costs over the lifetime of current and future claims.

The half-year financials also included $136 million of payments provided for under commutation of entitlement provisions introduced in the IPRC Act 2002 which enable surviving spouses to capitalise future entitlements as a one-off payment.

In the six month period, $29.5 million was actually paid, but demand for commutation payments under this provision is expected to increase as more claimants take up this option. ACC’s future liability will also correspondingly reduce.

However, Mr Wilson cautioned that the calculation of ACC’s claims liability was sensitive to interest rates which stood at 6.8 percent in June 2002 but have eased since.

If the average interest rate was to remain around the current 6.1 percent, ACC’s claims liability could rise by $450 million. This would negatively impact this year's results and could result in pressure for levy rate rises in the future.

"The period has seen ACC fulfil its commitment to all our stakeholders, with improved efficiency benefiting claimants, levy-payers and rehabilitation providers while claimants are experiencing faster returns to independence," Mr Wilson said.

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