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ACC builds a fortress against sex abuse claims

Joint Press Statement from:
New Zealand Association of Counsellors; New Zealand Association of Psychotherapists; Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers

8 December 2009

ACC builds a fortress against sex abuse claims

ACC have claimed that their new “Clinical Pathway” for sexual abuse claims is proving a “success”. In fact they have built a barbed wire fence, and the predators are on the wrong side of the fence.

They are succeeding in their policy of reducing the number of sexual abuse claims, not by a programme of prevention, but by putting barriers in the way of victims of sex crimes getting the treatment they need. “They demand an unrealistic skill set from assessors, which means that there are very few available in New Zealand to undertake this work. According to ACC, assessors need to be not just qualified to make a mental illness diagnosis but they must also be skilled and experienced in work with sexual abuse survivors and willing to do this work for ACC.”

ACC’s own statistics show a serious reduction in approved claims. They claim that this is because of a “more robust” policy of approval. This is just the same “tough it out” language that the latest campaign against mental health stigma is trying to stop.

This must please the rapists and paedophiles. They believe that what they do doesn’t cause any harm – the new ACC pathway is a Rapists’ Charter.

Information from Counsellors and therapists in the community is showing that a high number of claims are being declined or delayed by the new system. Treatment providers are pulling away from offering services and victims of crime are being deterred by insistence on a diagnosis of mental illness.

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In the 6 weeks since the new pathway was introduced at least 20 therapists have pulled away from offering ACC services. Reasons have included: unwillingness to be part of a scheme that potentially retraumatises crime victims; excessive unpaid reporting requirements; and uncertainty about being able to provide continuity of care.

Claims are being declined for a raft of spurious reasons, including:

1. No culturally appropriate Pathway for Maori yet established (2 cases)
2. No culturally appropriate Pathway established for Pacific clients (1)
3. No appropriate pathway established for children and adolescents (1)
4. Decline because of pre-exiting or coexisting psychological or family (“dysfunctional”) condition (6)
5. ACC deciding sex was “consensual” even when clearly coerced (Victim underage at 12 years). (1)

Delays are occurring because of:

1. Shortage of appropriate clinical psychologists to assess (69) – includes geographical location (36)
2. Confusion over which therapists are “qualified” to provide assessment (5)
3. Referral to a second psychiatrist after referral from mental Health services (1)
4. Ineffecient Administrative processes, eg.:
a) Losing track of clients’ information (1)
b) Delays in responding to phone calls and emails (1)
c) Inadequate preparation of forms, codes etc before rolling out the new CP (4)
d) ACC Staff blaming therapists or claimants for their own mistakes rather than admit a mistake has been made (1)
5. No lists of suitably qualified counsellors who are still available for clients to contact (2)

Victims of crime are finding the process too daunting to continue (7), examples of inhumane actions by ACC include:

1. Claimants being processed under new pathway even though claim was lodged before the date this applied (2)
2. Claimants having no choice of therapist now SCU decides who they will see (4)
3. Claimants’ experience of Clinical Psychologists’ appropriate treatment methods, inc.
a. A male suggesting he come to the home of a female claimant to assess her (1)
b. Sent exhaustive questionnaires to fill in ahead of assessment (2)
4. Claimants denied further hours because they are seen to have “had enough”, an administrative rather than a clinical decision (1)
5. No lists of suitably qualified counsellors who are still available for clients to contact (2)

In a submission to Parliament last week, representatives of the NZ Association of Psychotherapists, supported by NZAC and ANZASW urged Parliament to change the definition of Mental Injury in the ACC legislation. ACC insists that a legal judgement on the definition of Mental Injury is forcing them to require a diagnosis of mental illness. NZAP insists that it has always been Parliament’s intention that it is the impairment that constitutes the mental injury, not a diagnosis of mental illness.


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