Scoop Election 08: edited by Gordon Campbell

Gordon Campbell on ACC’s (and Women’s Affairs’) disinterest in violence against women

July 18th, 2012

It seems a simple enough concept; counselling is meant to help victims to recover from their experience. The conditions for getting access to counselling are not supposed to leave the claimant feeling so re-traumatised that they give up and go without the counselling they need – or pay for it privately instead, if they can – rather than subject themselves to hostile grilling by the Accident Compensation Corporation as to whether they truly need and deserve the service.

We can now quantify some of the fruits of this process. Yesterday, Dr Barbara Disley released the second monitoring report of ACC’s progress in implementing the 14 recommendations made by a 2010 Sensitive Claims Clinical Pathway review. According to the report, ACC has made “excellent” progress on only one out of those 14 points, and “good” progress on another six. In other words – and despite having had 18 months to get its act together – ACC is falling short on half the 2010 recommendations, and this failure is having dramatic consequences for those ACC claimants who are legally entitled to support.

For example? As the Greens ACC spokesperson Kevin Hague has pointed out, the Disley report shows that in 2011 only 3.6 percent of “sensitive claims” lodged (eg for counselling for sexual abuse) were accepted by ACC, down from 60 percent in 2008 when National became the government. There could hardly be a clearer sign of a new policy mindset within ACC that victims of sexual abuse can sink or swim, for all it cares.

Not surprisingly, the victims of abuse are giving up in the face of ACC’s stance towards them. Not only has the rate of claims approved fallen dramatically, but the number of claims being lodged has also fallen by 36% since 2008, For those that do persevere, there are chronic systemic failings within ACC, as Disley points out in her report:

While there have been improvements, including the ability of the support counsellor to attend these assessments with the client, the narrow range of tools applied to determining mental injury and the limited number of professional groups who can administer these tools leads to bottle necks and delays in cover determination….ACC needs to urgently review the assessment processes within the adult claims coverage context and broaden the range of tools and professional groups capable of undertaking these assessments.’’

Ah, but allowing the assessments to be done outside the narrow circle of like-minded clinicians on ACC’s payroll would run the risk of people being genuinely and independently assessed on their needs – rather than in accord with ACC’s unsubtle desire to get them off the books. ACC’s restrictive approach to entitlements has been spelled out in any number of ways in recent months – quite spectacularly by ACC general manager Denise Cosgrove in a presentation to an actuarial conference in Australia last year that only recently came to light:

Ms Cosgrove said ACC had faced major financial and other challenges but had since cut claims costs by $3.2 billion.

ACC managers had “taken the low-hanging fruit”, but now faced more complex claims which made rehabilitation and return to work “a bit harder”, the conference transcript said. There had been targets for “actuarial release” and “stellar results”, but there had also been adverse media coverage of issues such as “sensitive claims”, involving sexual abuse, and elective surgery, she said.

Damn those adverse media reports on how ACC is handling “sensitive claims” involving sexual abuse and elective surgery! In ACC’s skewed universe, there are not people who have been harmed with needs to be met and legal entitlements to be delivered – but only a risk that things may get out into the media, and that’s the process that needs to be managed with care.

Where, you might well wonder is Jo Goodhew, the Minister of Women’s Affairs in all of this, given that the vast bulk of “sensitive claims” victims are women? Ironically, Goodhew is right now at the United Nations in New York, where later today she will present New Zealand’s seventh report to the United Nations under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms Of Discrimination Against Women.

Mrs Goodhew will also attend meetings to discuss best practice and new ideas for progressing gender equality, particularly in the complex and challenging areas of reducing the remaining gender pay gap and increasing women’s safety from violence.

Right, increasing women’s safety from violence. At home, ACC is hard at work ensuring that few of the women who are unsafe from violence get access to the counselling they deserve. Talk about junketing around giving lip service to the problems. Here’s Goodhew in one of her rare public forays into Women’s Affairs work, with a press release to mark Rape Awareness Week earlier this year:

Research has shown that around 20 percent of girls in New Zealand have experienced some form of sexual violence. A history of sexual violence increases their risk of experiencing further sexual violence and other forms of violence. For example, child sexual abuse victims are approximately twice as likely as non victims to be sexually assaulted later in life. The Ministry of Women’s Affairs is investigating how we can prevent re-victimisation, better understand the impacts on victims, and better support these girls and women,” Mrs Goodhew says.

Well, maybe Goodhew and the Ministry of Womens Affairs could bestir themselves to comment on what is happening to the victims of sexual violence when they engage with ACC – because that process seems to be all about re-victimisation, about misunderstanding the impacts on victims and about denying support to those girls and women. Let’s see. The last visible sign of interest in this subject from the Ministry of Women’s Affairs appears to have been late in 2009, in the course of what was basically a literature review.

Still, the document did contain this observation at para 2.4.1:

Long-term needs: Counselling and support to manage any post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) effects. Some victim/survivors may not be ready to access counselling support until years after the sexual assault, or will become more aware of the effects over time.

By the sound of it, ACC policy is systematically ignoring such long-term factors. It is being told to do so by the government, in order to cut costs. Perhaps the people in government who are being paid to represent women should start to earn their money, and should stand up and oppose such practices.


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    1. 7 Responses to “Gordon Campbell on ACC’s (and Women’s Affairs’) disinterest in violence against women”

    2. By low hanging apple on Jul 18, 2012 | Reply

      Thanks Gordon.

      If one gets assaulted (and is the victim of violence) it is healthCARE that is required, not the loveless experience a big business model .
      The same thing goes for the DHB’s, there is no mystery as to why we have a crisis in our healthcare system.
      So if you are injured assaulted and battered do you want healthcare or do you want a failing business model.

    3. By Low hanging pear on Jul 18, 2012 | Reply

      Frightening how little we vulnerable women are actually worth when it comes to any government department committing actual resources. Writing reports with good intentions is so much cheaper.

    4. By Mystery on Jul 18, 2012 | Reply

      Hi Gordon et al

      Thankyou for trying to assist us who are the survivors of Rape and/or serious assault. I am one of these.

      ACC do not seem to have become any better since this new contract was signed by J Collins – in fact in my experience ACC have become even worse.

      I cannot fathom why, or how, the women of NZ are sitting back and just taking this, when we got the vote first!! Because we were determined not to be “lesser” type women.

      Nowadays, we seem to be letting the gas-lighting techniques of ACC, and the Stockholm Syndrome combine (as must be ACCs intention) to leave us overwhelmed with uselessness, and the inability to fight back.

      I tried to fight back for my SCU entitlements, and then ACC sent me packing!! This to further gas-light me.

      Why do ACC have this approach? Coz they can!!

      We need to be much less politically correct in our dealings with ACC, and hopefully with the help of you Gordon, we can.

      They cant send all our case files off to be managed by the ACC “Remote Claims Unit”, which is housed in its ‘secret location’.

      Have you heard of this Gordon? Do you know all about this tactic of ACCs? Its ACC sending the files of an outspoken, or fedup with being abused ACC claimant off to “claimant Borstal”.

      Check it out – maybe the man in the wheelchair has his files over there now too.

      I have further info regarding this if you are keen to follow it up.

      We need to riot, but its hard if youre brain injured or in a wheelchair – this is really why ACC pick on us – coz they dont like people with disabilities – I wonder why they applied for their jobs?

      We seriously all need you r continued help Gordon Campbell, so please keep it going,and dont be shy about rarking it up a gear or two…It is time.

      Look at the shame of the Minister Collins, with all this corruption and mismangement of claims going on, here she is defending WHAT (her reputation?). If you are an ACC claimant, then her reputation is “Crusher Collins”…is she going to Sue every ACC claimant coz they know she is merely feathering her own ego ahead of doing the job she was put in office to do?

      This is all my opinion and belief gained from my own personal first hand experience.

    5. By cc on Jul 19, 2012 | Reply

      Thanks Gordon. I encountered 6 years of sexual abuse as a child. This went on to have somewhat unconscious but severe effects on my daily life for years afterwards, from daily interaction to any relationships I had, intimate or otherwise. I was damaging and damaged, and true intimacy impossible.

      Fortunately at the age of 28, after years of self medicating and self harm I was pointed in the direction of an excellent counsellor, who was able to obtain ACC funding – bear in mind this is 12 years ago. Through that funding an extraordinary healing process began, and while these things will always affect me I was able to free myself up and move more fully into myself, and engage directly.

      I have been apalled at what has been going on, what is clearly a deliberate attack on the premise of ACC, and by default the people who need it most.

      So thank you for this post – these people need to be answerable to the pain and suffering I’m sure they are causing.

    6. By Mystery on Jul 19, 2012 | Reply

      Yes cc!

      They need to be made answerable….But the problem is that writing a news article about it being a problem isnt actually fixing the problem, and NO ONE is being made accountable at all.

      They just continue on with their lies and abuse towards victims – coz no one appears to be capable of stopping it.

      If the Minister for ACC and Justice, and Womens Affairs cant stop it – then who on earth can??
      And who on earth will???

    7. By Joe Blow on Jul 19, 2012 | Reply

      Good article Gordon. It’s sickening what is happening to ACC under this government. They’ll probably turn around in years to come and use all of this cost cutting mismanagement as an excuse to privatise the lot…

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