More questions than answers over ACC cost shifting

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.

8 thoughts on “More questions than answers over ACC cost shifting

  1. Kevin , The problem here is, stupid kiwis are to busy worrying about who’s got what,and who hasn’t. What one fails to observe is that every one in employment pays or has paid by employers; ACC levies based on earnings. That’s all ok. Then at the end of the financial year we all pay a earners levy, which is to cover non work related accidents. I was always of the thought if any one got hurt or injured these levies were designed to cover these accidents. But now for some unforeseen reason. ACC find excuses to decline genuine claimants and force them on to sickness benefit. So now this opens another kettle of fish, now my tax dollars are being used to support some poor individual for whom I’ve already payed acc levies to support. I think Smith,Wong,Bennett and Key should be opened up to an independent investigation. Obviously they are not concerned for the tax payer

  2. Keep pushing, Kevin. It never ceases to amaze me how few decisions made by this Government are based on legitimate research and evidence. Fickle public opinion has more influence than real data and no attempt is made to track the flow on effects of any initiatives.

  3. Yes Kevin you are right that there has been a policy. It was a paper released under the OIA last year written by Phil Riley of ACC. We refer to it as the ‘Riley paper’ real title Strategy for the future management of long term claims dated 16 February 2009. Acclaim Otago has spoken publically about this document previously and made front page of the ODT earlier this year. http://www.odt.co.nz/news/national/90521/acc-putting-pressure-claimants I can send you a copy of the Riley paper should you wish to see it.
    Yours
    Denise Powell
    President
    Acclaim Otago (Inc)

  4. “you mean the poor things will be down to one income?”

    and even if you hadn’t missed the point of toad’s comment, it’s very quaint that you think 1 income is enough to raise a family on these days.

    this government sure hates to do things above board.

  5. john, that wasn’t my point, although the disparity between the support provided to people who are incapacitated through injury and to those who are incapacitated through illness is an interesting issue worth exploring.

    But the point I was trying to make is that the number of people who are booted off ACC, can’t get work, but don’t qualify for a benefit appears to be impossible to quantify, but is undoubtedly significant.

  6. you mean the poor things will be down to one income? OMG we must raise taxes immediatly to stop this happening

  7. Go for it Kevin! Definitely something dodgy going on there. It’s not just cost shifting, it is an attack on the living standards of people incapacitated by injuries in order to save the Government money.

    Almost everyone moved from ACC compensation to a welfare benefit will receive less, and in some cases substantially less.

    And because of the abatement of welfare benefits due to partner’s income, there will be many people who are being cut off ACC who don’t show up in the statistics you quote because they know their partner earns too much for them to have any chance of getting a welfare benefit.

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