Changes to ACC funding for sensitive claims

Isaac Davidson from the Herald ran another great story today on the support services for victims of sexual abuse and ACC plans to improve coverage.

The new model will be “an expanded, more flexible service which took into account the sensitivity, length of time and cost of treating rape-related trauma based on the 2010 review recommendations.”

It will cover full cost of the sessions and will allow people to shop around for a therapist who they feel comfortable with and therapists, psychologist and psychotherapists would be given travel funding to allow them to reach people in isolated regions. ACC is also planning to increasingly include family members or support people through the recovery process.

There is an expectation that with increased reporting and more funding ACC were expecting the cost of sensitive claims to double from $45million per year.

Of course this is all good news but there are a few points in here that we need to watch carefully if we are to ensure that everyone gets the right help.

ACC is an important part of the puzzle in New Zealand but we can never expect it to be the whole picture. Many survivors chose not to apply to ACC either because they fear for their privacy, the paper work is too overwhelming at the time, they don’t want a mental illness diagnosis, or they were abused outside of New Zealand and are therefore ineligible. Government also needs to adequately fund non-ACC support services.

Twelve months is a massive improvement from the current 16 sessions before requiring assessment. But experts say that many people need to be able to access counselling at various times of their life as they might be triggered by the start of a new relationship, becoming a parent or any number of significant life events. We have been told that it is critical for survivors to be able to come back for counselling when they need it. Government need to ensure survivors are not bound to one continuous treatment plan.

Full funding means therapists and agencies cannot ask for a top up payment from clients. That is good if the level of funding is adequate to cover all their administrative costs and pay the market rate. If it’s not then we will probably just see more specialists leaving the sector.  There has already been a mass exodus of ACC accredited counsellors since the 2009 reforms.  Government needs to make sure the levels of funding will be enough to keep organisations afloat and practitioners doing the work.