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


ACC overhauls sexual abuse care service

A news report from Radio New Zealand News by Michael Cropp
The Accident Compensation Corporation has overhauled its sensitive claims service, with its minister saying it made big mistakes in the way it dealt with victims of sexual assaults.
Before 2009, ACC accepted thousands of sensitive claims, but after changes to the system that number plummeted, and in 2011 just 135 claims were accepted.
Survivors' advocate Louise Nicholas said the impact when ACC clamped down on the numbers of claims it accepted was devastating and in some cases victims committed suicide. Support workers no longer wanted to be part of the system, she said.
"We lost hundreds upon hundreds of counsellors who refused to work in such an inhumane system," she said.
"We lost survivors, and I mean literally, lost survivors. So people just backed right off and said 'we don't want a part of this'."
Ms Nicholas had been a member of a panel that worked to overhaul what she said was a highly bureaucratic process which re-traumatised sexual assault survivors and denied them the help they needed. Many struggled with ACC forms asking them what kind of accident they had had - while constant assessments to qualify for assistance wore people down.

More support
Under the new service, that is set to change. There will be a support package for people who have suffered sexual abuse or assault, access to therapy is free and people are covered for longer. People are also able to enter and exit the system for support at any time. As well as the person who was sexually assaulted or abused, family and whānau are also able to seek help free of charge. The form, too, has changed to reflect the sensitivities of the situation.
ACC strategy manager for sexual violence, Emma Powell, said the changes required a big re-think of how ACC dealt with clients.
"It's a tailored response and a tailored approach, trying to put as much control back into the hands of our clients."
The client is able to choose who they see and if things were not working out the Sensitive Claims team would arrange an alternative.
"We talk about the fact that the counsellor-and-client relationship is critical to success, so if it's not working we need to offer ways that people can seek other supports," she said.
The public issues Chair for the NZ Association of Psychotherapists, Kyle MacDonald, worked with sensitive claims clients and helped advise ACC on the changes. He said the new system was much more sympathetic to a survivor's needs.
"I think that ACC have engaged really willingly in the process of recognising that actually the system wasn't working and that they needed to fix it," he said. "they have essentially redesigned a services which looks to address a lot of the concerns raised [in 2012]."
ACC Minister Nikki Kaye, said the old system was not working, and she wanted people to know it had changed.
"There's a lot of work to do, both around how do we prevent these things from happening, but then how do we make sure people are cared for right throughout government," she said.
The Minister said the changes were just the start of a much bigger process, which she hoped would provide better care for survivors and help prevent the violence from happening.

* If you, or someone you know, is affected by sexual violence you can find out more about these services at ACC Find Support site or call the ACC sensitive claims team on 0800 735 566.
© 2015 Radio New Zealand


02 March 2015

More ACC support to help address sexual violence

A press release from the National Party
ACC Minister Nikki Kaye welcomes ACC’s new support package for people who’ve experienced sexual abuse or assault.
“It’s clear to me ACC has listened to feedback from clients, families, counsellors and others, and their input is reflected in the more flexible, wider range of support now being offered,” says Ms Kaye.
“ACC has come a long way in the last few years and I’m encouraged things are heading in the right direction.
“The new approach is not just about helping individuals but families too, who are also impacted if a loved one is sexually abused or assaulted.”
Improvements under the new service include:
  • more holistic support – as well as one-to-one therapy, people can now access new support such as family and whānau sessions, social work support and liaison with other agencies to obtain assistance that can help recovery
  • more hours of support for those who need it – up to around 60 hours of total short-term support, and up to around 100 hours of further support over 12 months, if required, for people with longer-term needs
  • more flexible support - making it easier to enter, exit and return to assistance at any time
  • new purpose-built claim form, which reflects the sensitivities of the situation.
“The new service is also fully funded by ACC. This means service providers cannot charge clients a co-payment, which will help more people access help when they need it.
“I’m pleased to confirm that on top of this, ACC will invest more in preventing sexual violence, from around $1 million to $4 million in the coming year.
“This extra support and injury prevention funding links into the wider government strategy, led by Ministers Adams and Tolley, to address sexual and family violence and encourage cultural change.
“It can be difficult sometimes for people to come forward and get help, so I encourage anyone affected by sexual violence to see what help is available.”
For more information, see the new website findsupport.co.nz.
© 2014 New Zealand National Party