31 December 2015

Dame Paula Rebstock has learnt to ignore the criticism that comes with the job

An article from Stuff by Jo Moir
Public servant Paula Rebstock has been recognised for her services to the state by being made a Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit. Jo Moir spoke to her about her most challenging roles, the sacrifices and how she deals with, often negative, public scrutiny. Money-hungry, a patchy performer, unqualified for your job: for most people, having those insults hurled your way would make 2015 an annus horribilis.
For Paula Rebstock, however, the barbs were nothing compared to some of the darkest days in her career.
When a lone gunman walked into a Work and Income office in Ashburton in September 2014, killing two staff and leaving a third seriously injured, Rebstock - chairwoman of the Work and Income board - stood alongside workers and the community as they struggled to make sense of the tragedy.
"The senseless loss of life of staff, those things are the things that are truly hard to deal with, and those things put life in perspective."
Now, her appointment as a Dame Companion of the NZ Order of Merit has provided a new perspective on her years of work. On New Year's Eve, Rebstock, her husband and two daughters will take up glasses of bubbles from their holiday home in the Bay of Islands, toasting a successful year rounded off with a "surprising" honour that brought her to tears.
Standing in the kitchen with her husband while opening the mail, Rebstock thought nothing of a letter from Government House, assuming it was her annual invite to Waitangi Day commemorations.
"I opened it and was really quite taken back. My husband said to me, 'What is wrong with you?' and I handed him the letter with tears running down my face. He looked at me and said, 'Oh God'."
Rebstock's two daughters, aged 20 and 24, have made "a lot of allowances for the certain work schedule their mother keeps" so she was straight on the phone to tell them the news.
"It was a special family moment, no question."
This isn't Rebstock's first award: after completely revamping the Commerce Commission, she was made a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2009.
Rebstock, originally from Montana in the United States, moved to New Zealand in 1987 and says the honour helped her to feel at home.
"For me it was something about being accepted in this country and really being a New Zealander like everyone else."
First employed by Treasury as an economist, she then served in the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet before moving to the Commerce Commission, where she became chair in 2003.
"When I left the Commerce Commission I always thought that would be the thing in my career I'd most feel proud of because we really did shift the work of the Commerce Commission to be far more productive."
On leaving the Commission in 2009, Rebstock was asked to lead an expert panel on probation services, which at the time was "really in a state of crisis".
"They were an agency under siege."
After cleaning up that mess, Rebstock moved onto ACC where her first experience on the board was a "terrible privacy breach". Details of thousands of ACC clients, some who fell under sensitive claims, were accidentally sent to ACC claimant Bronwyn Pullar.
"It really rocked the organisation...it involved a fairly large transformation in order to earn back the trust and confidence of our customers."
Most recently, Rebstock has been chairing a review of Child Youth and Family - a government department that has endured years of overhauls but no real change.
"If I'm honest I don't think I realised how big a challenge it was going to be...we've not done well by children who come into the care of the state."
Labour leader Andrew Little was scathing about her $2000-a-day salary for the review, saying she was "in it for herself" in what he described as a "pretty patchy career".
Rebstock is not new to criticism of her work, singling out "relentless" scrutiny while at the Commerce Commission, but says she does not let the political jibes get the best of her.
"These things are political processes and it's part of the game...it would be crazy if I allowed myself to get caught up in that - that's not to say at the time I didn't think, 'Gosh, why am I doing this again?'."
For now, it's Christmas at home, then a month at the beach and much excitement at the news her elderly parents and sister plan to travel to New Zealand in the New Year to celebrate her honour.
"People have to make a lot of allowances for you in their life when you get involved in a lot of these things and my family have always done that."

© 2016 Fairfax New Zealand Ltd


17 June 2015

Offender victims given counselling for childhood sexual abuse

An article from Voxy
Offenders who have experienced childhood sexual abuse are now receiving targeted counselling services through an innovative collaborative partnership between Corrections and Nelson’s SVS - Living Safe.
"A large proportion of offenders have themselves been victims," says Polly Cunningham, Corrections District Manager for Nelson, Marlborough, West Coast. "Very few have sought, or been offered, help in the past or considered the links between the abuse against them and their own antisocial behaviours."
Research tells us there is a strong correlation between child sex offending of males and later relational difficulties, violence, mental illness and drug/alcohol abuse. This is certainly evident in the population of prisons and probation services (both with adults and juveniles).
For the first time, the men in counselling are starting to get some closure and find a way forward. This is summarised by John (not his real name).
"Pretty much everything that happened after it (the abuse) - happened because of it. Counselling has helped me realise what I have to do to get over it."
American research shows that child maltreatment roughly doubles the probability that an individual engages in many types of crime, with childhood sexual abuse having the largest effects on crime. A study which explored the relationship between childhood sexual abuse and later antisocial behaviour found that 59% of prisoners questioned reported some form of childhood sexual abuse. "The counselling is aimed to help these offenders to work through some of the harm caused to them in their past, support them make changes in their own lives and help break the cycle of abuse for their own families and whanau," says Polly.
Through the partnership, identified offenders will be offered professional support and counselling. "We hope that this will help these men and women to move forward without the adverse effects and risky behaviours that can be seen in some victims of abuse, ultimately helping them to maintain a crime free life. Sometimes just letting them know there is somewhere safe they can go when they are ready can plant the seed or broker a new connection."
The programme, which is run by SVS in conjunction with The Male Room in Nelson, has been running for two years. Through this time, six offenders have attended the programme. "This initiative is making a real difference for the people we are seeing," says Dee Cresswell, Manager SVS - Living Safe. "Through this collaboration with Corrections and the Male Room, we are able to help offenders to address some of the underlying issues that contribute to their antisocial behaviours and in particular, to family violence. Partnerships like this demonstrate the benefits to individuals and the public when organisations take a holistic approach and work collaboratively to reduce offending and re-offending.
"We have had the opportunity for the past two years through innovation funding. Referrals were slow to start, but with the support of Practice Leader Gary Basset the momentum grew."
"Childhood abuse is a hard topic for Probation staff to raise with the people they manage and it is very difficult for offenders who have been affected by childhood abuse and never dealt with this to ask for help," says Gary.
"This partnership can make a life changing difference for these men at a very personal level and for their families and future generations."
The ACC programme is now delivered by SVS - Living Safe’s approved Assessors and providers to ACC approved clients through the Integrated Services for Sensitive Claims.
© 2015 Digital Advance Ltd


01 April 2015

The inadequate response to sexual violence prevention

An article from Scoop by Gordon Campbell
On combatting sexual violence, the government has finally begun to undo some of the problems that were of its own making. Early in March, ACC launched the Integrated Services for Sensitive Claims scheme – a package aimed at improving the attitudes of ACC staff towards sexual violence victims, and offering them more substantive support. Hopefully, this will help to reverse the damage done with the insensitive, punitive ACC policy put in place by the incoming Key government in 2009, which in some parts of New Zealand, saw 90 per cent of sexual violence victims being turned away by ACC.
As well as this new support scheme, ACC is also increasing its annual funding of sexual violence prevention education, from a paltry $1 million to $4 million, a figure still seen as inadequate by experienced workers in the field.
In addition, Justice Minister Amy Adams has invited the Law Commission to revisit its work on possible changes to the pre-trial and courtroom procedures faced by sexual complainants. The Police however, continue to be one of the glaring problem areas. The report by the Independent Police Conduct Authority into the Police handling of the so called “Roastbusters” group in Auckland not only disagreed with the Police rationale for not initiating a prosecution under the Crimes Act – ultimately, the Police decided that a prosecution would not be in the public interest, given the young age of some of the offenders. It was a stance that completely ignored the even younger age of some of the victims.
The IPCA also faulted (as being inadequate to non-existent) the Police contact with the young men and their families. Arguably, not only was justice for the victims ill-served by the Police decision not to prosecute, but the deterrent/prevention aspect was completely neglected. In the words of the IPCA report, the Police “overlooked the importance of holding the young men accountable for their behavior, and preventing its recurrence.”
The conspicuous failure by Police over the Roastbusters incidents came despite the findings by the 2007 Commission of Inquiry into Police conduct (that had been initiated by the complaints made by Louise Nicholas). This inquiry had revealed a culture of misogyny and aberrant behaviour rife among the Police, at high levels of the Police hierarchy. So, unless the government is prepared to put some heat on the Police over its handling of sexual violence between adolescents and adults – and the subject was conspicuously absent from the Briefing to the Incoming Minister of Police in 2014 – then the concerns about sexual violence being expressed in Parliament this week will ring hollow.
Even the possible changes to pre-trial and courtroom treatment will not address the issue of prevention. As the initial Law Commission issues paper on those proposals pointed out, the approach being assessed “ does nothing to address the attitudes that led to the offending, and it accordingly fails to reduce the risk that the behaviour will recur.” It may seem both incredible and yet somehow unsurprising that – so long as some of the next America’s Cup racing is held in Auckland - the government would spend ten times the amount on that regatta than what ACC is currently putting into sexual violence prevention education.
© 2015 Scoop Media


05 March 2015

ACC help for sexual violence victims

An article from the Manawatu Standard by Thomas Heaton
Client-focused changes to ACC's services around sexual violence have been a long time coming, Palmerston North counsellors say.
ACC officially launched the new Integrated Services for Sensitive Claims scheme on Monday. The new service puts greater focus on maintaining wellbeing and increasing the provision of support, including increased hours for support.
Palmerston North counsellor Paulette Berryman, who is also on the Sensitive Claims Advisory Group for ACC, said the new system was very different from what was brought in in 2009. A part of the advisory group for about 15 years, she had seen a lot of changes.
Berryman said the system enlisted in 2009 was really awful for clients, as many were unable to get counselling services.
"When survivors have already been rendered powerless, they don't want to engage in a more powerless system."
It was found ACC was turning about 90 per cent of claims away. In 2009 there were 282 claims while in the 2013/2014 financial year there were 369 in the Manawatu-Whanganui area.
"The biggest change I see is that there is a client-centred approach," Berryman said.
Clients will also no longer have to pay surcharges for the services of counsellors.
ACC expected an increase in the number of cases coming in, because of the change to the client-focused system.
Manawatu Women's Refuge manager Dr Ang Jury said it was a long time coming. A more sensitive approach to the realities of what victims went through was needed. Flexibility in treatment, allowing victims to enter, leave and return to assistance was important.
Jury said the change made sense, as some people may not want to deal with issues immediately, or they may feel they had already dealt with their problems.
"A little bit down the track, they might realise they need support," Jury said.
"People are individuals ... They need to be treated on a one-on-one, individualised basis, taken seriously for what's happening to them."
Ann Kent, manager of Abuse and Rape Crisis Support Manawatu, said the new system was promising.
"It's a new system to us and everybody is still learning ... They [ACC] seem to have looked at what hasn't been working.
"[They] have put in a concerted effort to put in place a system that will be positive," she said.
© 2015 Fairfax New Zealand Limited


03 March 2015

Influx expected with funding for ACC sexual abuse service set to double

An article from NZ Doctor by Ruth Brown
ACC is braced for an influx of new sex abuse claimants following the launch of its more generous service for sensitive claims. The budget for this financial year is $14.6 million, to cover support assessment and treatment. This is set to almost double to $29.5 million for the 2015/16 year. In the 2013/14 year ACC spent $12.5 million on sensitive claims.
A year-on-year 10 per cent increase is conservatively estimated, says Emma Powell, strategy manager, sexual violence at ACC. Since the service began rolling out last November, an extra 1000 claims have been lodged for the service which, at any one time, is dealing with 5500–6000 claims. The main difference is the service is now fully funded so clients won’t be asked to make a copayment which previously was sometimes as high as $90 for counselling sessions, Ms Powell told New Zealand Doctor.
The Integrated Services for Sensitive Claims (ISSC) was officially launched in Wellington last night.

‘Less daunting’ assessment
Ms Powell says the assessment process for claimants has changed significantly after feedback from clients that it was “pretty daunting”. Instead of assessments being conducted by an independent party over one or two sessions, ACC now offers supported assessments which have been allocated up to 26 hours. This is allocated for support sessions interwoven with assessment sessions and a de-brief with the claimant at the end. Also, counsellors who may have conducted the original sessions are likely to be involved with the supported assessments, she says.

Not enough counsellors
Ms Powell acknowledges a lack of trained counsellors in some parts of the country.
In a previous New Zealand Doctor story, Wellington GP and deputy chair of Doctors for Sexual Abuse Care GP Cathy Stephenson said sexual abuse survivors were still facing barriers because of too few counsellors.
Ms Powell says areas such as South Canterbury, the West Coast and remote rural areas were most affected by a lack of counsellors specialising in sexual abuse. But ACC will pay for providers to travel to these areas.
“We will be working through some of those gaps fairly smartly,” she says.
ACC currently has 175 suppliers with 770 providers on its books and it’s currently assessing and processing another 110 potential providers, she says.
© 2015 MIMS (NZ) Ltd