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ACC revisions still put NZ behind: Victim Support

11 April 2008

MEDIA RELEASE

ACC revisions still put NZ behind: Victim Support

Plans to extend ACC to cover mental trauma resulting from workplace incidents are insufficient, says Victim Support.

Parliament’s Transport and Industrial Relations Committee has been hearing submissions on The Injury Prevention, Rehabilitation and Compensation Amendment Bill (No 2) proposing that ACC be extended to cover mental trauma resulting from workplace incidents. ACC currently only compensates for mental trauma for victims of sexual abuse and physical injury.

In its submission, Victim Support said that mental trauma should be recognised as a compensable injury whenever there are accident victims, regardless of whether the incident occurred in the workplace or elsewhere.

Acting chief executive Heather Verry said overseas crime victim compensation schemes usually recognise mental harm as a form of personal injury for primary as well as secondary (family, dependants and witnesses) victims.

“Under the current ACC laws, many victims who would be eligible for compensation for counselling overseas miss out in New Zealand. The changes to include workplace incidents would not fix this situation,” said Mrs Verry.

“It is important that New Zealand, which once led the way with its compensation scheme, does not fall further behind other countries.”

Victim Support regularly deals with victims who escaped fatal accidents physically unharmed but who require treatment for mental injuries, such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression.

“There is no evidence that PTSD is contingent on receiving a physical injury or that it is more common in workplace traumatic incidents compared with incidents occurring anywhere else.”

Mrs Verry said the optimal management of common reactions to trauma, such as PTSD, depression, anxiety and substance abuse, is professional psychological treatment. “It is paramount for the welfare of the individual and society that victims of crime and trauma receive appropriate treatment.”

She said that for ACC to be comparable with overseas models, state-funded support should be available to both primary and secondary crime victims for counselling and treatment, lost earnings and childcare costs if required to take time off work to attend court, and lost earnings associated with physical and mental trauma.

Victim Support currently administers funding for counselling for families and witnesses of homicide victims and could extend this to cover counselling for other victims, said Mrs Verry.

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