News » “ACC’s Culture is Sick”- Advocate

Press Release – 11 September 2012:

On February 3, 2012 the NZ Herald reported on communication between ACC staff to limit assessments it was arranging to address Mrs Diane Smith’s needs in relation to a serious ankle injury, which subsequently required amputation. In 2008, Mrs Smith’s case manager wrote “PS please ensure that assessor knows we are looking at mods [modifications] available on current vehicle ONLY – NOT looking at purchasing a new vehicle as this is what the client is likely to ‘push for’!”. A similar comment was made regarding the assessment for a kitchen.

In 2012 Mrs Smith’s advocate, David Wadsworth filed a formal complaint about these comments with ACC’s Office of the Complaints Investigator (OCI). Mr Wadsworth claimed the instruction from the case manager was a breach of Mrs Smith’s right to be treated fairly because it is unlawful for ACC staff to influence independent assessments of claimants’ needs.

ACC’s Complaints Investigator issued a decision that Mrs Smith’s rights were not breached, justifying the ACC staff’s actions as “cost-effective” and “ACC policy”.

Mrs Smith challenged the OCI decision through ACC’s review process. The independent Reviewer, appointed by ACC, agreed with Mr Wadsworth’s submissions and found those actions were indeed outside the legislation and breached Mrs Smith’s right to be treated fairly.

“What this shows is that not only did ACC staff seek to potentially disadvantage Mrs Smith by limiting those assessments in 2008, those actions are endorsed by ACC at the highest level. ACC sees nothing wrong with it!” says Mr Wadsworth.

Mrs Smith is quite rightly disgusted and dismayed at ACC’s treatment of her and no longer trusts it to act fairly in managing her claim.

Manipulating the outcome of assessments can affect the outcome of any decisions ACC makes on the claim. It also makes challenging those decisions through the review process difficult because the legislation places much weight on assessments by suitably qualified assessors. That is why it is important an assessment of a claimants needs are independent. ACC’s so-called policy creates an uneven playing field and it does not comply with the requirements of ACC legislation.

Access Support Services has also received anecdotal evidence from clients over the years complaining of such a practice.

“The 2008 communications and the OCI decision in 2012 is evidence of a sick culture that allows such practice to occur and I was not surprised.” says Mr Wadsworth. “Furthermore, ACC’s own CEO, Ralph Stewart was aware of those actions by ACC staff.”

Access Support Services is calling on a Minister to conduct an independent inquiry into ACC’s policies and practices that have allowed such a sick culture to occur, a culture endorsed by ACC’s own Office of the Complaints Investigator but found to be outside the legislation and unfair by an Independent Reviewer in Mrs Smith’s case.

“The evidence is damming and there can be no doubt middle and senior management need to be held accountable and new management and policies put in place in order to give Mrs Smith and all other levy payers the confidence that such a culture is eradicated” says Mr Wadsworth.

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