04 November 2014

Health insurer, physio group among suppliers of ACC sexual abuse counselling

An article from the New Zealand Family Violence Clearinghouse
Australian health insurer Medibank, Active Physiotherapy (now called Active+) and Auckland doctors' network Procare are among 173 successful applicants to become "suppliers" of ACC-funded sexual abuse counselling.
"Suppliers" are a new management layer created as part of ACC's sensitive claims system redesign. "Suppliers" will contract with counsellors and psychologists who will remain the service "providers."
Counsellor and co-chair of TOAH-NNEST Tania Blomfield expressed concern about whether non-specialist suppliers would understand privacy issues and other sensitivities associated with sexual abuse, and whether they were seeing sexual abuse counselling as a "potential money-spinner."
As part of the system redesign, ACC will raise the level of funding it provides from the current $83 per hour to new rates dependent on the qualifications of the counselling provider. Providers will no longer be able to charge clients a "top-up" fee. This is intended to reduce the barriers to victim/survivors to access counselling. However, Ms Blomfield expressed concern that some providers could end up worse off if the suppliers charged large administration fees.
ACC recently announced that under the redesign, it would:
  • Fund access to 48 therapy sessions over 12 months
  • Provide the full cost of counselling sessions
  • Allow claimants to 'shop around' for a therapist of their choice
  • Provide therapists with travel funding to allow them to travel to people in isolated regions
  • Support the inclusion of family members and support people during the recovery process where appropriate.
© 2014 New Zealand Family Violence Clearinghouse


29 October 2014

Question to Minister

9. IAIN LEES-GALLOWAY (Labour—Palmerston North) to the Minister for ACC: Is she satisfied that just 54 percent of the public expressed trust and confidence in ACC according to the corporation’s 2014 Annual Report?

Hon Nikki Kaye (Minister for ACC): No, I believe that ACC needs to do more to rebuild trust and confidence with New Zealanders. I am confident that ACC has a significant programme of work under way to achieve this. I am also pleased that the annual report shows trust and confidence has been trending upwards for the past few years.

Iain Lees-Galloway: Did former Minister Judith Collins damage public trust and confidence in ACC when she admitted that every New Zealander is paying too much for ACC because the Government is using excessive levies to create the perception that it will achieve a fiscal surplus in the current financial year?

Hon Nikki Kaye: Well, firstly, I disagree with the statement made in that question. But what I can say in terms of levies is that under our Government we have announced $480 million in levy reductions. That is incredibly significant, and it is a bit rich to get a lecture after the previous Labour Government left us with a huge deficit in 2008-09 of $4.8 billion.

Iain Lees-Galloway: I am going to seek leave to table a media statement, but that is because the Minister refuted the premise of my question—

Mr Speaker: Order! Members need to understand that the purpose of tabling a document is not to make a political point.

Iain Lees-Galloway: The purpose is not to make a political point.

Mr Speaker: Well, I think that in the way it has been described to me, it is very much about making a political point. The reason people seek leave to table documents is that it is information that is not readily available to members, may be difficult to source for members, and may be informative to members. If it is something that has been in the media, particularly media that is freely available to members, I do not intend to start putting the leave.

Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. In a ruling that you made—it was either earlier this week or last week—you referred us to a Speaker’s ruling that requires any statements made in a question to be authenticated, so if there is any factual material in a question, it needs to be authenticated. If a member is not able to table a document to authenticate that claim, what is the appropriate way for them to authenticate any claim that they might be making in a question?

Mr Speaker: The member, I think, is confused between a primary question and a supplementary question. The authentication is required for a primary question, and that is required in the process when it is lodged to the Clerk’s Office, and they will be accepted with authentication. With regard to supplementary questions, I have to judge relatively immediately whether it is a reasonable question, and I do that, but it is not as if there is an ability to then table information that substantiates the authentication of a supplementary question. So in this case, the primary question was authenticated, it was immediately answered in the very first word by the Minister, and we have now moved to a supplementary question. The way forward, as I continue to advise the House, is further incisive supplementary questions.

Iain Lees-Galloway: Does the Minister accept—

Hon Dr Jonathan Coleman: World weary—he’s not happy. That’s a big sigh.

Iain Lees-Galloway: Are you all right? Does the Minister accept that over the 6 years that National has been in Government, New Zealanders have overwhelmingly come to perceive ACC as difficult to deal with, likely to breach their privacy, likely to litigate against claimants, and overcharging them for the privilege; if not, why not?

Hon Nikki Kaye: No, I do not accept all of the statements made by that member. What I can say is what I have said in answer to the primary question: there is more work to do. Obviously, by a percentage that shows 54 percent public confidence, we have to do better. Let me outline some of the progress that we have made. Firstly, you can see at an investment level that ACC is now essentially fully funded. That is an extraordinary achievement for this Government, given that we were left in a situation of a debt of $4.8 billion in terms of deficit. Secondly, at an organisational level it is very clear—and I am meeting with the board tomorrow—that it has a huge programme around both updating information and communication technology systems to ensure that we have better progress around issues like privacy but also that a huge amount is being done in terms of claims management. I am confident that ACC is on the right track.

Iain Lees-Galloway: Will this morning’s article in the New Zealand Herald damage public trust and confidence in ACC, given that it detailed an attempt to cover up information about fraudulent activity, that the cover-up itself was bungled, that when pressed about the extent of fraud, ACC could only say that the information it used was not robust, and that an accurate figure for the level of fraud has not been provided?

Hon Nikki Kaye: In terms of the article in the New Zealand Herald, I do not believe that it will actually damage public trust, because you need to understand that the data is—and I want to outline why, for a number of reasons—11-year-old data. The data was from 2,000 clients, and that is out of a total of about a billion claims. So, firstly, it was a very small sample. I also understand that the figure that was quoted of 8 percent to 10 percent was not the proportion that was fraudulent; it was the proportion that needed another look. So it is old data, it is a small sample, and it is ropey.

Iain Lees-Galloway: Given that the Minister is not satisfied with the level of public trust and confidence in ACC, does she believe that the two initiatives to address public trust and confidence listed in the service agreements between ACC and former Minister Collins, which are “refresh our communications strategy” and “social media”, will be enough to improve confidence in ACC, or does she think it might take something a little bit less superficial than that?

Hon Nikki Kaye: In terms of the corporation’s programme to improve public confidence, there is a range of initiatives. There is a range of initiatives. The member is referring to a different document. He is not referring to the annual report. If he reads the annual report, he will see that not only is there a significant investment plan in terms of dealing with the privacy issues, and not only is the ACC doing a huge amount around sensitive claims, which is very important, but, thirdly, the Government is looking at the long-term funding policy. When he drills down, when he does the work and reads the annual report, he will see that one of the areas where we do need to improve public confidence is around businesses’ interaction with the ACC. There is a huge amount to do in terms of that administration side because that is where the public confidence is partly very low.

Marama Fox:

    [Authorised te reo text to be inserted by the Hansard Office.]

    [Authorised translation to be inserted by the Hansard Office.]

Hon Nikki Kaye: Just in terms of the translation of that question, I got only half of it, I think—

Mr Speaker: I invite Marama Fox to either repeat it in Te Reo, or, if she wants to, she can now repeat the question in English—whichever she would rather do.

Marama Fox: Perhaps I will repeat it in English. How is the Minister planning to address the projected 10 percent increase in new sensitive claims each year, and what plans does she have in place to involve whānau in the recovery process?

Hon Nikki Kaye: That is a very good question. Firstly, one area where the Government is very focused, and also the corporation is very focused, is the prevention of sexual violence. We have a strategy and an action plan around that, and they involve a number of Government agencies. The second thing I would say is I am advised that ACC is currently in the final stages of tendering for new suppliers and providers around some of those sensitive claims. That is very important so that we have more providers. Thirdly, with regard to family and whānau support, I am pleased to confirm that family and whānau of sensitive claims clients will receive support through the introduction of up to 20 hours of family and whanau support, depending on family need. I can confirm that this will be available by the end of the year.

Hon Te Ururoa Flavell: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. Tēnā koe, Mr Speaker. Can I just ask the Minister with respect to the question, because I was not listening to the translation, for further information, just in case other members, Māori members, use Te Reo and we have to switch into English, which defeats the purpose. Was the issue that the Minister did not get a good translation, that the Minister did not get a translation, or that the translation was unclear—just for the purposes of—

Mr Speaker: I am sure I can answer that on behalf of the Minister. The Minister did not manage to realise it was going to be in Māori. She did not grab the headpiece in time to listen to the translation, so she picked up the latter part of the—[Interruption] I will let the Minister explain her own reasoning.

Chris Hipkins: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker.

Mr Speaker: No, I am going to hear from the Hon Nikki Kaye first so we will get an explanation.

Hon Nikki Kaye: I was listening, and I heard only half, I think, of what the translation was, and other members may be able to confirm that.

Chris Hipkins: I am happy to speak to this, because I also was listening to the translation, and the translation bore very little correlation to the question that was then asked in English. This is quite a serious issue for the House, because we previously had a situation where questions were asked first in Te Reo Māori and then in English, and we moved to a system where we had simultaneous translation. If that translation is not going to actually translate what is asked, then we are going to have to reassess that. I listened very carefully to the translation. I can fully understand why the Minister did not understand what the question was. I did not understand what the question was either.

Mr Speaker: Thank you. I appreciate that. When I finally got my headpiece on, again, I found much the same as the member Chris Hipkins has said. We need to now investigate whether it was an issue to do with the translation, because it is critical, if we are going to rely on the translator, that we have an accurate interpretation of the question that is asked. Otherwise, it could lead to all sorts of difficulties for a Minister. I will look into the matter.

23 October 2014

Abuse claim oversight switch stuns providers

An article from the New Zealand Herald by Simon Collins
Australian health insurer Medibank has won a bid to manage sexual abuse claims for the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC).
The company, which is being sold by the Abbott Government in a share float expected to fetch up to A$5.5 billion ($6.1 billion), is one of 173 successful bidders to become "suppliers" of sexual abuse counselling - a new management layer that will contract with counsellors and psychologists who will remain the service "providers". Other successful bidders include Active Physiotherapy, now called Active+, and Auckland's biggest doctors' network, Procare.
Counselling leaders are alarmed. Manukau counsellor Tania Blomfield, who co-chairs the national network of sex abuse counselling agencies, said she was concerned that "private sensitive information is going into databases outside of the sector".
"It scares me that they may be seeing this as a potential money-spinner," she said.
ACC has lifted funding from a standard $83 an hour at present to new rates which will stay about the same for counsellors with diplomas but will increase to about $100 an hour for those with master's degrees or $130 an hour for physiotherapists, or more for clinical psychologists. But counsellors who go into the new integrated contracts will no longer be able to charge clients "top-up" fees of up to $90, and some could end up worse off if the supplier companies managing the contracts take a big cut for administration.
"From the client's perspective, which is what it's all about, this is going to be a lot better than the existing system, but the question is going to be how badly do the providers get screwed along the way," Ms Blomfield said.
Medibank NZ general manager Andrea Pettett said the company approached about 700 of the 900 ACC-registered counsellors and received indications of interest from more than 100 of them. The company also operates the Healthline phone service for the Ministry of Health and is believed to be on a shortlist of three, along with Lifeline and a company owned by Procare and Christchurch doctors' network Pegasus, in another tender to integrate Healthline with other helpline services.

Sex abuse tender

Why are sex-abuse counselling contracts being re-tendered?
ACC's new "integrated contracts" include assessing clients' needs as well as providing counselling. Until now most counsellors have not had contracts but simply billed ACC for hours worked.

Why can insurance companies and physiotherapists bid?
ACC has opened up the criteria for assessments to allow clients to choose their assessors and counsellors. Until now ACC decided who did the assessments.

What will change for sexual abuse survivors?
They should get a more integrated service, fully funded by ACC. Counsellors in integrated contracts can no longer charge clients extra fees above the ACC subsidy.

Why are counsellors worried?
Some counsellors worry that insurance and physiotherapy companies won't understand privacy issues and other sensitivities in sexual abuse cases.
© 2014 APN New Zealand Ltd


30 August 2014

Complaint turns up heat on Collins

An article from the Dominion Post by Phil Kitchin
An ACC whistleblower has complained to the privacy commissioner alleging Cabinet minister Judith Collins leaked confidential but false details to WhaleOil blogger Cameron Slater. Bronwyn Pullar filed her complaint after reading in Nicky Hager's Dirty Politics claims of Slater giving a friend - a former sex worker - false details about Pullar that the blogger said he got after speaking to Collins.
Privacy Commissioner John Edwards, whose office is overseen by Collins as the justice minister, said yesterday that he was assessing the complaint. The complaint heaps more pressure on the embattled Collins, who is on a "final final warning" from Prime Minister John Key after admitting she passed details about public servant Simon Pleasants to Slater, who then published material on his blog, prompting death threats against the bureaucrat.
Pullar caused severe embarrassment for Collins, who is also ACC minister, when she blew the whistle in 2012 on a massive ACC privacy breach involving her being sent confidential details on 6500 claimants, including sexual abuse victims.
Dirty Politics claims the day the story broke, Slater told the former prostitute - who was concerned her details were part of the ACC breach - that he would talk to Collins for "the real story". In two sets of messages between Slater and the ex-prostitute, Slater said he had spoken to Collins, and he provided his friend with then-unknown information about the whistleblower, the book claims.
Particularly damaging for Collins are the book's claims that Slater's statements show that he knew who Pullar was, that she had tried to extort ACC and that she was likely to be prosecuted. At the time Dirty Politics claims he was stating this to the ex-sex worker, ACC had not laid any extortion complaint to police and Pullar's request for anonymity had been respected by ACC.
If Slater's statements to the former prostitute as detailed in the book are correct, Collins could face serious trouble for leaking Pullar's name and false allegations of extortion against her before the minister had received any final written reports from her ministry.
However, Slater now insists the key details were not leaked by Collins.
Slater yesterday confirmed he spoke to Collins but said she only provided him with details about the privacy breach to allay his ex-sex worker friend's fears. He said Collins gave him no information about Pullar and allegations of extortion, and that he got that information from other sources.
Collins side-stepped questions about what she told Slater and said she was unaware of any complaint to the privacy commissioner against her by Pullar.
"If there is one, I would be unable to comment," Collins said.
"There are complaints about the Hager book and stolen emails before the police and the privacy commissioner and it would be inappropriate to comment further."
When Pullar first blew the whistle on ACC she was not identified, and the corporation was told she wished to remain anonymous so she was not deluged with calls from ACC clients asking if they were part of the privacy breach. The scandal forced ACC into making thousands of apologies and Collins faced snap debates in Parliament.
Three days after the story broke and after crisis meetings involving Collins, then chairman John Judge and then chief executive Ralph Stewart, ACC hit back at Pullar.
ACC published a report claiming Pullar tried to extort the corporation at a December 2011 meeting held between Pullar, her support person and former National Party president Michelle Boag, and two senior ACC managers. ACC did not ask Pullar for her side of the story before making the allegations public and then repeating them to police, who launched an inquiry.
Slater was then fed a memo from Boag to Collins which he gave to a Sunday newspaper reporter and Pullar's name became public knowledge. Slater went on the attack on his blog, falsely accusing Pullar and Boag of blackmail.
But ACC and Slater did not know Pullar had a tape recording of the meeting that showed the allegations were false.
Correspondence with the privacy commissioner's office obtained by The Dominion Post shows the commissioner admitting his office initially "overlooked" Pullar's complaint made on August 15.
The commissioner last week ruled out investigating a Green Party complaint that Collins leaked Pleasants' name to Slater. He said he would need a complaint from Pleasants, who has declined to lodge one.
Edwards' assistant commissioner of investigations, Mike Flahive, told Pullar on Wednesday he was "assessing" her complaint to consider what action to take.
"Your patience would be appreciated," Flahive said.

The latest complaint that ACC and Justice Minister Judith Collins breached ACC whistleblower Bronwyn Pullar's privacy is different to one that dragged Collins into an earlier investigation by the privacy commissioner. That investigation was launched when a memo from former National Party president Michelle Boag to Collins clarifying Puller's reasons for blowing the whistle was leaked to a reporter. The leak led to Pullar - who has a brain injury - coming under siege from media as ACC simultaneously falsely claimed she'd tried to extort the corporation.
Investigators trawled through Collins' office and computer and questioned ACC chairman John Judge and then chief executive Ralph Stewart to try to find the source of the leak. Collins was accused of being the leaker, which she correctly denied.
The investigation failed to find the leak but informed sources have confirmed to The Dominion Post that the leak was from one senior board member to another, who gave it to a blogger, who passed it to Slater, who gave it to the reporter.

March 13, 2012 - The Dominion Post reveals ACC breached the privacy of 6500 ACC clients, including rape victims, by sending their details to an unnamed ACC client.
March 13 - According to Dirty Politics, WhaleOil blogger Cameron Slater tells an ex-prostitute friend he would ring ACC Minister Judith Collins to "get the real story".
March 14 - Slater tells the ex-prostitute the whistleblower was a woman who tried to blackmail ACC and was likely to be prosecuted for extortion, Dirty Politics claims. That afternoon, minister Collins attends a meeting with ACC chief executive Ralph Stewart and chairman John Judge. In an affidavit later, Judge said Collins "very strongly" pushed for police to be told about threats allegedly made by Pullar at a meeting with ACC on December 2011.
March 15 - The word "blackmail" is first publicly discussed. Collins tells Radio Live she had oral reports on the December meeting but wanted written reports.
March 15 - Two ACC managers from the December meeting provide their official account, which contains no allegations of blackmail or extortion.
March 16 - A "situation report" is published on ACC's website accusing the whistleblower of extortion.
March 17 - The book claims Slater tells the ex-prostitute he knows who the whistleblower is and that she will get "rat f...ed hard."
March 18 - A Sunday newspaper names the whistleblower, Bronwyn Pullar, after Slater provides a leaked email from ACC.
March 19 - ACC makes a written complaint to police about alleged extortion.
April 30 - The Dominion Post reveals Pullar recorded the critical meeting at which ACC claimed she'd tried to extort the corporation. The recording showed ACC had made false allegations. Police swiftly shut down their investigation.
© 2014 Fairfax New Zealand Ltd


20 August 2014

ACC initiative targets sexual violence

An article from the Papakura Courier by Tao Lin
They are talking sex and violence at Papakura High - and how the two don't mix.
The school is the first in South Auckland to trial Mates & Dates, a new ACC initiative that aims to help prevent sex and dating violence by teaching teenagers healthy relationship skills and behaviour. It's being piloted during term three across seven classes and organisers say it's getting good results.
ACC statistics shows the 15 to 24 age group is the most at risk from violence by current and ex-partners. One in five female and one in 10 male secondary school students report unwanted sexual contact or being made to do unwanted sexual things. Around 37 per cent describe the unwanted activity as severe and 57 per cent tell no-one.
Korowai Tumanako, a Maori service designed to support those affected by sexual violence, facilitates Mates & Dates at Papakura High. Its director Russell Smith says the response from students has been great and many of those who were disengaged at first were taking notes by the second or third sessions. The programme teaches about healthy relationships, consent and how to stay safe.
"The hope is to normalise discussions," Smith says.
Fellow director Joy Te Wiata says students are encouraged to apply the lessons to all areas of their lives and recognise how to help others in danger.
"It's quite a courageous programme in that we are making discussions about sexual violence overt," she says.
"They're simple, key messages."
School guidance counsellor Avril Michaels says she's also pleased with "how positively the staff of the classes have embraced the programme".
ACC sexual violence prevention programme manager Sandra Dickson says it applies to all kinds of relationships and extends the organisation's role in helping people deal with experiences of sexual violence. It already plays a key role supporting people dealing with the effects of sexual abuse or assault, she says.
"We now want to play a greater role in helping to prevent sexual and dating violence and the harms they cause."
The programme is relevant to all students, whether they're in a relationship or not, she says.
"It covers all kinds of relationships such as friendships and those with family. The programme will help students think about relationships they already have, as well as dating in the future.
"It's a challenging time for teenagers to be growing into adulthood. We hope Mates & Dates will give them the skills and tools they need to both make that transition safely and carry with them throughout their lives."
ACC minister Judith Collins was at the school last week to catch up on the programme's progress. She describes it as "a fantastic step to prevention" and says she supports challenging current mentalities around sexual violence.
Papakura High is one of nine schools around the country trialing the new programme.
If you or someone you know needs information or help after a sexual assault or abuse, contact ACC's sensitive claims unit confidentially on 0800 735 566. See toah-nnest.org.nz for information on where to seek help if you have experienced sexual violence or become concerned about harmful sexual behaviour towards others.
© 2014 Fairfax New Zealand Ltd