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ACC Issue Wont Go Away

Howard’s End – ACC Issue Wont Go Away

By Maree Howard

Calls for a full public inquiry into ACC gathered strength over the weekend when the Sunday Star-Times exposed more revelations about the Corporation's practices which has caused claimants to write to ACC Minister Ruth Dyson advising her to make herself available for a meeting. Maree Howard writes.

The phone calls started about 7.20 last Sunday morning. Claimants who had already seen the ACC Special Report in the Sunday Star-Times were incensed with what they had read.

Through their own experiences, which Scoop has reported over the last couple of months, they already knew the truth of what the Star-Times wrote. But now, they were challenging CEO Garry Wilson's rehabilitation figures quoted to the paper.

Wilson said " Five years ago, 60% of our money went into compenation and only 40% into rehabilitation. Now those percentages have switched - we now spend 60% on rehab and 40% on compensation."

Scoop did a quick calculation based on the figures provided in ACC's own 2002-03 accountability documents. If Wilson is quoted correctly his figures don't seem to add up.

For example, ACC's revenue is $2.3 billion.

On page 23 of the Accountability documents under the heading "rehabilitation benefits" which includes treatment, social and vocational rehabilitation, the spend on rehabilitation is $969 million - or 42% of the total revenue.

Of that $969 million, $243 million is spent on vocational rehabilitation and just $33 million on social - it is the social rehabilitation which claimants and lawyers say is urgently needed and is not being properly provided.

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Under the heading "compensation benefits" which includes income maintenance, independence allowance, lump sums and death benefits, the spend is $856 million - or 37% of the total revenue.

A far cry from the 60/40 ration quoted by Wilson to the Sunday Star-Times.

To be fair to Wilson, Scoop will have the figures checked by a friend who is a chartered accountant.

The Star-Times also reported Ruth Dyson saying " Rehabilitation has to consider the whole person including their health, social and vocational needs."

How that can happen is a mystery to Scoop when only $33 million is budgeted to be spent on social rehabilitation while $243 million is to be spent on vocational rehab.

Dyson was also reported saying that today's problems stem from the policies of a National administration.

This comment particularly incensed long-term claimants and a lawyer who phoned Scoop. In 1994 former Chief District Court Judge Peter Trapski published his scathing report into ACC practices which covered the previous fourteen years - 6 of which Labour was in power between 1984 and 1990.

They say if anything, ACC has become worse since that time and more so in the last three years - under Labour.

Another question raised to Scoop about ACC's alleged current practices of dumping still-injured people from the scheme: "What happens to the money that ACC used to pay to a dumped claimant?"

Allegations are flying that this money is invested on the short-term money markets and ACC doesn't care if the claimant ultimately gets re-instated on review or appeal because it has had the use of the money for a few months to earn high interest on the short-term markets.

That is the new allegation against ACC and, quite frankly, it would not surprise me at all since northern hemisphere banks and financial institutions pay high short-term interest rates prior to Christmas when cash demands and consumer borrowings are at their highest.

A friend of mine has the job of investing millions of dollars on the overnight money-markets - so it's possible that ACC might be doing that. You can bet that the money ACC is no longer paying claimants is not just sitting in some low-interest bank account.

Claimants are now questioning why there always seems to be a sudden push to dump them around Christmas time - even if they do get re-instated later.

Initially, I thought this sounded like some kind of conspiracy theory until one claimant pointed out - "Every policy is a conspiracy until it's announced."

This story will simply not go away until the problems are fixed.

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