Auditor General's Report verifies concerns
ACCLAIM Support Groups
Auditor General's Report verifies claimant's concerns.
ACC's claims management was not given a clean bill of health by the Auditor General's report released yesterday as purported by ACC in their press release. In fact the report validated what claimants, their advocates and lawyers have been saying for several years.
The report echoes claimant's long held concerns regarding Individual Rehabilitation Plans. These are often seen as a token effort to comply with the legislative requirements. The report says:
"Other case managers prepare an IRP, and then send a letter that outlines the content of the plan and asks the claimant to sign a final decision letter"
"We also found instances where the content appeared to have been copied, with little to differentiate them in detail from other plans."
"It was also sometimes offered on a 'take it or leave it' basis, along with the reference to statutory consequences of non-compliance with ACC directions."
The report recommends that - "ACC ensure that all case managers tailor the content of each individual rehabilitation plan to the claimant's rehabilitation needs." It also recommended that- "ACC case managers make sure that the claimant fully understands their goals, rights, and responsibilities before the claimant is asked to sign the Individual Rehabilitation Plan."
The Auditor General's report also says that the lessons from Catalyst need to be heeded and "have relevance to ACC's future dealings with long term claimants." Catalyst had business goals "to return 2000 long term claimants to independence during the 2002-2003 financial year." The expectation of vocational independence being achieved with a time frame of 12-15 months and the "pressure on case managers to have a set number of claimants leave the scheme may have affected the level of service they could provide to each claimant." Advocacy groups say this relates directly to the 'exit of the tail' initially brought to the public's attention by the media in 2002.
"We find it very coincidental that this report was due out in Oct 2003 and Catalyst was disbanded in Sept 2003." said ACCLAIM spokesperson Murray Jorgensen.
Many claimants speak of their frustration when after winning a review decision or District Court appeal ACC seems to drag the chain before reinstating entitlements. The Auditor General shared the "Ombudsmen's concern about any delay, because this can have severe consequences for the claimant, and cause significant disruption to their life." Therefore a further recommendation was that "ACC prioritise action to implement a reviewer's decision as quickly as possible in cases where ACC decisions are overturned and it elects not to appeal."
ACCLAIM support groups are welcoming ACC's CEO Garry Wilson's assurance that "Most of the Auditor-General's suggestions for improvement are being addressed. The report will be circulated to all ACC branch staff so they can take on board its recommendations." Support groups and advocates only hope this is not just lip service and ACC will actually address the issues outlined.
"ACC is not applying the principles of natural justice and complying with the NZ Bill of Rights Act when making decisions which is a fundamental issue of fairness that the Auditor General has missed in the report. Support groups remain of the view that a public select-committee inquiry is needed so that all people have an opportunity of making submissions and for the select-committee to examine the Auditor General's report in that context." Mr Jorgensen stated.