by Kevin Hague
A couple of months ago, following ACC Minister Nick Smith’s u-turn on counselling for ACC sexual abuse claimants, I called for an independent review of the wide-ranging cutbacks to ACC imposed by the Government.
At the time, I was particularly disturbed that the responses to a series of written questions to Dr Smith made it clear he had no idea how many vocational independence assessments were being done by ACC and he could provide no data about how many people were having their compensation cancelled as a result.
So I tried another approach to get some idea of trends of people being moved off ACC weekly compensation. I asked Social Development Minister Paula Bennett how many new applicants for welfare benefits reported their immediate pre-benefit income as being weekly compensation from ACC for each month of the last four years. I’ve graphed the replies here:
The gradual increase in the latter part of 2008 is likely explained by the worsening economic conditions making it harder for people who had lost their jobs while on ACC weekly compensation to get a new job.
What really disturbed me was the huge increase in the number of people being shifted from weekly compensation onto welfare benefits since March 2009. There were no legislative changes taking effect at that time that could explain the increase. However, March 2009 just happens to coincide with Nick Smith throwing scary and unfounded numbers around, sacking ACC’s Board, and proposing entitlement cuts and levy increases.
This leaves me very suspicious there may have been an informal policy implemented around that time to aggressively move people off weekly compensation without providing them with adequate rehabilitation. This is another good reason to hold the independent review I called for.