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Injured people let down by ACC

24 October, 2012

Media release on behalf of the ACC Futures Coalition

Injured people let down by ACC

One of the keynote speakers at the ACC Futures Coalition one- day conference on Monday, Hazel Armstrong says ACC is allowing injured people to drag down New Zealand’s productivity.

Hazel, who is a lawyer specialising in ACC and is the ACC Futures Coalition spokesperson, says that injured people are not getting real compensation, rehabilitation or proper jobs because of the flawed system.

She uses the example of an injured worker in Taumarunui who was deemed by ACC to be suitable for a job as a customs officer, and therefore lost his access to weekly compensation. It is obvious that there are no customs officer jobs available in Taumarunui, but ACC does not have to consider labour market realities when deciding that people are fit for work.

She also says that ACC abruptly ends people’s compensation before they are completely rehabilitated and that this is partly because it does not use truly independent assessors.

“I was told of an expression used by a senior manager in ACC called ‘plucking the low hanging fruit’. This expression refers to ACC’s attitude to getting people off weekly compensation. ACC will declare people vocationally independent irrespective of their previous income. It does not look at the whole person just the covered injury and ACC does not look realistically at the job they could do.”

She says New Zealand needs to get back to the spirit and purpose of the ACC Act which says in its opening statement:

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“.. this Act is to enhance the public good and reinforce the social contract … for a fair and sustainable scheme for managing personal injury that has, as its overriding goals, minimising both the overall incidence of injury in the community, and the impact of injury on the community (including economic, social, and personal costs)….”

“We have strayed so far from this. Where is the synergy between this and the people known as the ‘low hanging fruit?’”.

The ACC promises much, but delivers not enough, she says.

“We need this to change. ACC should be required to use objective evidence of the capacity of the injured person, such as through work trials. ACC needs to ensure that there is on-going contact with the employer, injured people need to have the ability to choose an assessor and allow people to gradually build up their hours at work again without having their entitlement cut.

“We also need real qualifications for people who are being retrained - such as NZQA unit standards, apprenticships.

“This should be seen as an opportunity to upskill the workforce. Having many injured people less productive, is not good for New Zealand.”

ACC has been subject to considerable criticism in recent years over such matters as its alleged culture of disentitlement and its inability to manage the privacy of claimants.

The ACC Futures Coalition hopes the conference will assist the development of a new and positive agenda for ACC, to help restore integrity and trust in the Corporation and put it on a sustainable footing where it is not subject to the whims of successive governments.

Hazel Armstrong will be speaking at 1.15pm (Rehabilitation, Vocational Independence and Independent Assessors). Other speakers include Sir Geoffrey Palmer at 9.35am (A Future Framework for ACC) and a political panel at 4pm (Can We Achieve Political Consensus on ACC?)


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