30 June 2010

Question to Minister: ACC - Culture Change

Hon ANNETTE KING (Deputy Leader—Labour) to the Minister for ACC: Does he think the huge culture change within ACC has gone too far?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for ACC): I am very conscious of the need to get the balance of accident compensation right between containing costs and levy increases and ensuring that people receive their proper entitlements. Costs were clearly out of control under the previous Government, and a culture change was needed. I am closely monitoring the accident compensation review data, and would be concerned if there were an increase in the number of Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) decisions being overturned. There is no such trend. A similar proportion of claim decisions are being upheld now as were upheld under the previous Government, indicating that ACC has got the balance right.
Hon Annette King: As part of that culture change, does he recall ACC saying: “We take our relationship with counsellors and clinicians seriously,”; if so, why has he not ensured that ACC takes seriously the warning from clinicians at Ashburn Clinic - health professionals who provide New Zealand’s foremost treatment programme for victims of sexual crimes, who have had no referrals from ACC since October, and who have had to lay off 10 crucial staff?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Clinical decisions, whether in terms of surgery or in terms of sensitive mental health issues, are properly made by clinicians. I would be concerned if decisions that had been made by ACC’s clinicians were being repeatedly overturned in the independent review process. That would suggest that ACC had got the balance wrong. In regard to the specific issue of sexual abuse, I have initiated an independent review, which is being done Dr Barbara Disley, and I am looking forward to receiving her report.
Hon Annette King: Does he recall ACC saying that it would like to explain the changes that have been made for victims of sexual crimes so that clinicians can see “what we are doing to improve service performance”; if so, how does he intend to explain the loss of the long-term residential service at Ashburn Clinic, which had helped victims rebuild their lives - a loss because of a $900,000 shortfall, while he boasts of a $2 billion surplus?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The key decisions on whether clients go to Ashburn Clinic or receive care in other establishments should be made by clinicians, not Ministers. If Ashburn Clinic or any members opposite believe that people are inappropriately being turned down for treatment, the proper process for them to follow is to seek a review of the case. If the member has evidence of that, I would be more than happy to see it.
David Bennett: By how much did ACC’s claims and administration costs go up over the preceding 4 years, requiring a change in culture?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: ACC administration costs between 2004 and 2008 went up by an average of $50 million extra per year—that is, from $302 million in 2004 to $494 million in 2008. In the National Government’s first year we reduced those administration costs by $35 million. Claim costs between 2004 and 2008 went up by nearly $300 million extra every year - a rate of increase that was 5 times the rate of inflation. That was clearly unsustainable. As in so many parts of the public service, Labour let costs get out of control.
Hon David Parker: Can the Minister not see that the change of culture and the push towards privatisation that he has lauded are exactly what led his appointed chair of ACC, John Judge, to say that doctors, in addition to facing disciplinary action, should pay financial penalties for medical errors?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Firstly, the member deliberately misquotes Mr Judge. He deliberately misquotes him, as is so often the case.
Hon Trevor Mallard: I raise a point of order, Mr Speaker. To deliberately misquote is to mislead the House. That allegation is not allowed to be made by a member of Parliament by way of answer.
Mr SPEAKER: I accept the point the member makes. Perhaps the member could change his language so that he is not making that accusation.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The member misquotes the chair of ACC, who has had an incredibly challenging job, given that the previous Government in just 3 years, according to the audited accounts, let the liabilities of the accident compensation scheme blow out by $10 billion. Mr Judge has had an awfully challenging job to try to get them under control.
Hon David Parker: Is the Minister concerned that the chair of ACC is so obviously out of touch with the underlying principles of our accident compensation system that he is clearly pushing towards a litigious, Americanised private insurance model?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The member is way off beam. This Government is totally committed to an efficient, 24/7, no-fault scheme. But I make no apologies for this Government and Mr Judge looking at sensible ways that we can engage with the private sector to better manage claims in order to rehabilitate patients more quickly. I congratulate Mr Judge on reversing the decline in rehabilitation rates that occurred under the previous Government.
Hon David Parker: Why is the Minister so at ease with the undermining of the current accident compensation model by moves to privatisation and financial penalties for doctors—which is what John Judge did say, I tell the Minister—when it is abundantly clear that the Americanised insurance model that he and Mr Judge are pushing New Zealand towards leads to more conservative and expensive medical treatment as well as money being wasted on lawyers and insurance company margins?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: Under any model to incorporate the private sector that this Government looks at, exactly the same entitlements will be involved and exactly the same independent review processes will be involved. Be we make absolutely no apologies for wanting to use the private sector so that we can rehabilitate people and get them back to work where they can make a positive contribution, rather than continuing the culture of the previous Government, which seemed happy to have thousands and thousands of New Zealanders sitting on accident compensation, not being rehabilitated, and not able to work.
Hon Annette King: I seek leave to table a letter from the medical director of Ashburn Clinic, which states: “Our primary concern is the care of the patients who are being denied treatment under the current ACC guidelines.”
Mr SPEAKER: Leave is sought to table that document. Is there any objection? There is no objection. Document, by leave, laid on the Table of the House.

Psychologist upset at way ACC manages sensitive claims

A news report from Channel 9
A local clinical psychologist is at her wits end due to changes in the way ACC manage sensitive claims, which are those that usually relate to sexual assault or abuse.
The current situation is resulting in patients that need counselling often left waiting for months for treatment to be approved, and it's a system that as you'll see in this report, has been labelled a complete failure.
© 2010 Channel 9, Dunedin Television

See more at http://www.ch9.co.nz/content/psychologist-upset-way-acc-manage-sensitive-claims

ACC matters - cautiously optimistic!

An article from ANZASW NoticeBoard by Cathy McPherson
On May 7 I attended a hui in Wellington, requested by the Sensitive Claims Advisory Group at our last meeting in March, when ACC admitted that they need some assistance to fill in the “gaps” in service left by their new Pathways. The meeting was faciltated by Graham Bashford. While Peter Jansen was in attendance, he had no role to play in the meeting, and in fact appeared extremely subdued... SCAG members were not entirely sure what to make of this development. Approximately 60 attended the meeting.
The week before the meeting, there was an announcement by the Minister of Justice that the Minister of Social Development would be undertaking a “stocktake of Government spending on specialised sexual violence services. The terms of reference are expected to be finalised soon, and she expects to report back by the end of the year. The aim of the stocktake is to build on TOAH NNEST’s work, establish what the Government is already purchasing, what the current and long term demands for services will be, identifying opportunities for efficiency and effectiveness and considering future funding options”.
As a consequence of this announcement, we were informed the day before the meeting by ACC that “the agenda for the ACC facilitated workshop would include the time to develop a statement from the group to provide to the Minister.”

Impressions of SCU Workshop:
The workshop was attended by approximately 60 people including SCAG, representatives of Police, child and adolescent and adult mental health, representative of Commissioner for Children, Massey University and ACC including James du Plessis and David Rankin, and Denise Cosgrove, the new General Manager of Claims Management, as well as some claims managers.
ACC was actually asking and listening as to how to fill the gaps left by the new Pathways.
They made a clear statement that they recognized there were clear gaps in the system, and that ACC were committed to doing everything they could to address these “within the constraints of the legislation”. Furthermore, they stated they would record and forward the gaps highlighted by us to the review panel.
Graham Bashford went on to outline the history of the changes and the current situation of which the most salient point was a recognition of clear delays, namely that they have approved claims within three days when all the information has been present, but that the current average is 47 days. (This was challenged by SCAG as we have it well-documented that clients have been waiting for decisions from last year).
It was also acknowledged that the approval rate is very low. It appears that ACC see a clear difference between their legislative responsibility and clinical responsibility, as the phrase “within the constraints of the legislation” kept coming up.
Concern was expressed that a great number of ACC counsellors have either left the profession or have taken on new positions because of the almost zero approval rate by ACC.
ACC for the first time stated that over the years, ACC had become the default provider of counselling services for sexual abuse survivors even when mental health, difficulties prior to the sexual abuse, prior alcohol and drug issues etc were in existence. One of the suggestions at my discussion table (which included Kim McGregor, David Rankin, James Du Plessis, Commisioner for Children rep, Police rep, DSAC rep) and the suggestion was from the ACC people that funding for counselling have contributions from Health and Ministry of Social Development.
Police expressed concern about how much more difficult it is to obtain a prosecution when complainant is not adequately supported through that process and may be legally discredited due to mental health diagnosis.
It was acknowledged by those present that the present system was clinically unsafe and that the present process was not working either for ACC or for clients.

Some of the suggestions from the meeting:
Clear call for long term goal to be implemented of TOAH NNEST framework; namely a multi-ministry and cross agency response that is seamless and well funded and can respond quickly to the acute situation of disclosure.
Also a clear indication that some sort of short-term emergency response needs to be implemented immediately to stop the decline. Various ideas were tabled, including going back to four sessions for all new claims to hold clients until a decision is made by ACC re approval of claim.
Finding culturally safe ways of working within the Pathways.

ACC made the following commitments:
To document and discuss suggestions at next SCAG - I will report back on this after the June 19 meeting.
To inform both the CEO of ACC and the Minister of the outcomes and content of this meeting as a matter of urgency.
To record our concerns and suggestions unedited and as discussed.
To pass on outcomes of the meeting to the review.

At the end of the day, SCAG members came away feeling cautiously optimistic and hoping this was not just window-dressing. We were quite impressed with Denise Cosgrove but only time will tell. We certainly came away believing that our concerns have been listened to, and look forward to the departure of Graham Bashford, and hopefully Peter Jansen as well.
Also the Review Committee has just been announced for the promised six month review of the Pathways. There will be an opportunity for us all to make submissions to this Committee. I am trying to get an address to send submissions to and will publicise this as soon as I have it.

29 June 2010

'Magic' levy no compensation for abuse survivors

A press release from the Labour Party
The level of help victims of sexual violence will receive out of income from the “magic” $50 offender levy will nowhere near compensate for National’s cuts in ACC counselling services for survivors of sexual abuse, Labour MPs say.
Labour Law and Order spokesperson Clayton Cosgrove and Victims Rights spokesperson Lynne Pillay say they welcome a new court support service for victims of sexual violence, but proceeds from “the magic levy” are to be spread so thinly that victims will not experience the genuine compensation National had led them to believe was coming their way.
Clayton Cosgrove said: “The levy - which may not even be collected from many offenders given all the unpaid fines that already exist - is now to fund a host of objectives, including the new court support service; increased funeral grants for families of homicide victims; immediate costs, such as clothing, faced by sexual violence victims; and financial help for victims of serious crime to attend court.
“These are all worthy objectives, but add to this the news that the levy will also be used to supply victims of serious crime with a DVD and pamphlets explaining all of the above services, and you begin to get an inkling of the apparently magical potency this levy is assuming.
“It is worth noting that just about the only thing National is not claiming for the levy is that it won’t be a bureaucratic nightmare. That’s what it is going to be. Make no mistake about it.”
Lynne Pillay said: “Survivors of sexual abuse are in desperate need of counselling services but are going without because the Government won’t accept that its new ACC policy is failing dismally.
“It will be scant consolation for them that that they may receive some support when they appear in court,” Lynne Pillay said.
“Changes made by National for people accessing counselling services have been an unmitigated disaster that has caused survivors of sexual abuse even more suffering. Today’s levy announcement won’t change that reality.”

A letter from Nick Smith

Dear Annelise
Thank you for your emails of 15 February, 8 and 11 March 2010, regarding the independent review of ACC's Clinical Pathway (the Pathway) for sensitive claims. I apologise for the delay.
I acknowledge your concern about the changes. Before the Pathway was implemented on 27 October 2009, ACC agreed to my request for an independent review six months after implementation. The Pathway had to have been operating for a period of time to produce meaningful data and results that can be fairly assessed by an independent review.
The review is now underway, led by Dr Barbara Disley, former Chair of the Mental Health Commission and former Chief Executive of the Mental Health Foundation. The review panel welcomes submissions to ClinicalPathwayReviewSubmissions@researchnz.com or posted to Clinical Pathway Review Submissions, PO Box 1039, Wellington 6140.
You can access the terms of reference, and information about the members of the review panel at: www.beehive.govt.nz/release/sensitive+claims+review+announced. I believe the members of the review panel have the necessary skills and experience to bring a fresh and independent perspective to this difficult area of ACC's work. I expect the review panel to report their findings to me in July 2010.
Thank you again for your emails. ACC has not made these changes lightly, and has invested a lot of time and research in trying to develop the best possible process and support for clients within the limits of the Accident Compensation Act 2001. I am looking forward to the outcome of the review to ensure that the new sensitive claims process achieves this aim.
Yours sincerely
Hon Dr Nick Smith
Minister for ACC

$900,000 shortfall; clinic losing ten staff

An article from the Otago Daily Times by Eileen Goodwin
Dunedin's Ashburn Clinic is losing nearly 10 full-time equivalent staff, combining two inpatient wards and mothballing a hostel to make up a $900,000 funding shortfall.
Business manager Lindsay Smith said yesterday the clinic had lost ACC referrals for sexual abuse sufferers, a Ministry of Health eating disorder contract, and had fewer DHB referrals and self-referrals.
The hospital was staffed for 45 to 50 patients, but needed to provide for 30 to 35.
Two inpatient wards - Gwen Wilson and Frank Hay - would combine as a single ward. Alexander House, a residential building catering for nine self-sufficient inpatients, would be mothballed, with its inhabitants moving to the former Frank Hay ward. Closing the building would save about $100,000 annually on power bills.
The clinic was choosing to mothball the hostel, rather than the extra ward, because it was more expensive to heat.
Mr Smith's own position would halve, in a voluntary move, which would allow him to stand in October's elections as a city councillor, he said.
Kitchen staff would reduce by one full-time equivalent (FTE), nurses 5.5 FTE, psychiatric staff 0.7 FTE, psychotherapy 1 FTE and office staff 1 FTE.
All up, 9.7 FTE would go, although it was not possible to say yet how many actual staff members that entailed. Details would be worked through in the next two to three weeks.
It was important the clinic acted before the situation worsened.
Ashburn did not have a shortfall for the 2009-10 financial year.
During the past five years, ACC funding for sexual-abuse inpatients dropped from $2 million to $900,000 in the 2009-10 financial year. Referrals for the service were now non-existent. ACC stopped using the contract between six and nine months ago.
The clinic lost a $500,000 five-bed eating-disorder contract with the Ministry of Health, effective from the end of this month.
DHB referrals had dropped too, and private paying patients were opting for shorter stays.
The clinic raised its fees last December, had become more proactive in gaining new contracts and introducing new programmes, and had cut costs.
Deputy medical director Dr Stephanie du Fresne said losing staff - Ashburn's "treasure" - had been distressing as the clinic enjoyed a stable workforce with extremely low staff turnover. Dr du Fresne said staff and patients had worked together to find creative ways to save money, reflecting Ashburn's philosophy as a "therapeutic community" empowering patients.
ACC claims management general manager Denise Cosgrove, responding by email, said the contract with Ashburn for intensive residential rehabilitation remained, but long-term treatment was not always the most appropriate for sexual abuse sufferers. Funding to Ashburn had been dropping since 2002-03, when it was about $2 million a year, she said.
© Allied Press Limited 2010

25 June 2010

Government's miracle cure comes with a hidden cost

An article from the New Zealand Herald by Tracey Barnett
What a wonder. Idle rape counsellors all over the country have been partying like crazy lately.
There have been reports of scores of counsellors in small, disorganised herds like happy wildebeests, sitting around sunny resort pools in exotic locales sucking down tall beverages, practising My Way for the evening karaoke competition.
If you cup your hand to your ear, you can hear clumps of eight or nine of them belting it out with air mics near the shallow end. They're not stupid. They keep well away from the deep end.
They know what it feels like to be pushed in without a life preserver - and they hate watching people drown. All those years of trying to teach folks how to swim back into life are history now.
It's play time, amigos, because, New Zealand, we have been healed.
Under the Government's policy, ACC has accomplished something amazing. It has managed to erase almost 90 per cent of all rape and incest survivors from getting ACC-approved counselling help.
What a crazy success story. There's a reason those party animals are sucking down their lime spritzers by the pool.
They used to work hard. Really hard. Back in 2001, almost 94 per cent of ACC claims from rape and incest victims were accepted.
Makes economic sense, doesn't it? It's like breaking an ankle. As a society we need to heal our wounded citizens, otherwise they can't get back on their feet.
And we all know what happens when we can't walk stably. Wobbly jobs and a wobbly home life mean more people in that family eventually start to limp.
Forget about the moral imperative, economics alone should show that it costs us all more in the long run.
Here's where the raw policy brilliance came in. Some bright spark decided to say, okay, sprain your ankle and the Government will take care of it, but get so unlucky as to be raped and there's one teensy catch before a professional can help you heal.
You have to be declared mentally ill after an assessment by ACC. How charming is that for a reluctant survivor who may have taken years to get up the courage to front up for counselling? Or a victim in crisis?
Not only do you have to be declared mentally ill, but ACC has to decide that your mental illness is specifically due to the sexual abuse. If you've had other traumatic events in your life previously, good luck.
What has happened since this policy brainwave hit in October? Here's where the miraculous part comes in. We are all better now. How else can you explain this flip-flop?
As a nation, we have gone from helping almost 94 per cent of sexual abuse victims almost a decade ago to not helping almost 90 per cent of them today. Talk about re-victimising the victim. More than half of ACC claims for sexual abuse counselling are now being turned down outright.
It's the government equivalent of saying, "You have a broken ankle - nah-uh, I don't think so." Except if your injury was your ankle, you'd have a statistically better chance of the Government agreeing to fix it.
Meanwhile 32 per cent of claims are being held up in the system for more information, with delay times for someone in crisis that can span two to eight months.
A paltry 3.5 per cent are under assessment. And wait for it - because here's the happy number we've all been waiting to celebrate - only 11.9 per cent of survivors' claims have been approved for treatment. More brilliantly, we have managed to scare off victims from even applying.
Whereas last year 550 a month applied, that number has now shrunk by half. Stretched crisis centres nationwide have been left to pick up the pieces.
Calls to centres in the Auckland region are up 26 per cent since the new rules came into effect. Sexual abuse hotlines in the Auckland area alone received an estimated 18,000 calls last year.
The Government has certainly accomplished something. By telling ACC to tighten its books, it has managed to erase the healing needs of sexual abuse victims off its accounting ledgers while stupidly dumping them into a much bigger societal price tag that will cost us all far more over time.
So next time you spot that roaming herd of rape counsellors rehearsing the entire Sinatra songbook, give 'em a break.
Until someone takes off this Government's ridiculously blind economic mask and looks at the bigger societal costs, I don't see any reason why those party animals don't have a damn good chance of taking home the karaoke cup for their rendition of My Way.
Just sing it like you don't mean it.
If you need help for sexual abuse, phone (09) 623-1700, a 24-hour crisis line.
Copyright 2010 APN Holdings NZ Limited

23 June 2010

Questions for written answer

12983 (2010). Lynne Pillay to the Minister for ACC: What are the numbers of sensitive claims, lodged, accepted, declined, awaiting external information, under assessment by ACC for claims decision and duplicate, by region for March 2010?
Hon Dr Nick Smith (Minister for ACC) replied: I refer the Member to the attached table, which shows all new sensitive claims lodged with ACC from 1 November 2009 to 31 May 2010 by region of injury and the claim's current decision status as at 19 June 2010.

12984 (2010). Lynne Pillay to the Minister for ACC: What are the numbers of sensitive claims, lodged, accepted, declined, awaiting external information, under assessment by ACC for claims decision and duplicate, by region for April 2010?
Hon Dr Nick Smith (Minister for ACC) replied: I refer the Member to Parliamentary Question for Written Answer 12983 (2010).

12985 (2010). Lynne Pillay to the Minister for ACC: How many sensitive claims were lodged, and how many did ACC approve and decline in March, April and May 2010, by region?
Hon Dr Nick Smith (Minister for ACC) replied: I refer the Member to Parliamentary Question for Written Answer 12983 (2010).

12986 (2010). Lynne Pillay to the Minister for ACC: How many sensitive claims were lodged, and how many did ACC approve and decline in November and December 2009 and January and February 2010, by region?
Hon Dr Nick Smith (Minister for ACC) replied: I refer the Member to Parliamentary Question for Written Answer 12983 (2010).

Question to Minister: ACC - Acceptance Rate for Counselling

LYNNE PILLAY (Labour) to the Minister for ACC: Did ACC alert him that the acceptance rate for ACC-funded counselling in the 6 months to 30 April 2010 was 11.9 percent, and, if so, when?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH (Minister for ACC): No, but the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) has kept me regularly informed. The figure is misleading, in that 32 percent of claims are awaiting further medical information for a decision. The main reason for declining claims is that the Accident Compensation Act 2001, which was passed by that member’s previous Government, requires claimants to have a diagnosed mental injury for them to be eligible for counselling, and most do not meet that legal test.
Lynne Pillay: When ACC released updated figures to the New Zealand Herald last week, was it before or after his written reply of Wednesday, 16 June stating he was unable to provide an update on the numbers of people not getting help for sexual abuse crimes, and was this a case of deliberately withholding the ugly and embarrassing truth that in the 1 month of March last year 238 people received ACC-funded counselling, but under this failed new regime, 178 people received counselling in a period of 6 months?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: The first point I make in the answer that I will provide the member— and she has asked many questions—is that expenditure this year on counselling for sensitive claims is not significantly different from what it was a year ago or 2 years ago. I am not aware of when ACC specifically had the discussion with the New Zealand Herald, but I have endeavoured to provide comprehensive answers to the many questions from the member.
Lynne Pillay: When did he instruct ACC to stop using the nonsense statistic of less than 4 percent in data categories for sexual abuse, as anyone with a calculator can figure out that in many instances the figure is actually zero, and that deliberate delays and fudgey statistics will never hide the fact that the system is not working, and that sexual abuse experts and survivors tried to warn him of that 8 months ago?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: It has been a long-standing practice in a number of Government agencies, when members ask questions about, for instance, how many claims have been accepted in a region, and there is a very small number, and the agency may risk someone’s privacy, to simply list it as less than 4 percent. I have answered many questions from the member opposite, and I invited the member to meet with Dr Peter Jansen, who is the medical practitioner in charge of that area, and the member simply chose to personally attack the doctor.
Katrina Shanks: What action has the Minister undertaken in response to the concerns of some counsellors, psychotherapists, and others about the clinical decisions of ACC on sensitive claims?
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I have been very reluctant to interfere in decisions of a clinical nature, but noting the concerns, I have established an independent clinical review of ACC’s policy and processes, which is being led by Dr Barbara Disley, and is due to be reported back to me next month. I was disappointed that Labour members refused my offer to be consulted on both the terms of reference and the membership of the review, which I believe is the proper and professional way in which to deal with this important and sensitive issue.
Lynne Pillay: Given that Denise Cosgrove of ACC admitted last week that ACC may have moved too swiftly in its failed new process for sexual abuse counselling claims, will he now admit that he has been supporting this atrocity against victims of crime in order to save face, and the truth is that even his claims that general practitioners supported the failed pathway is wearing thin, in light of the publishing of the general practitioners survey in the Christchurch Press today, stating that 70 percent of—
Mr SPEAKER: I say to the honourable member that her question is highly marginal. I was going to allow it, even though she has made allegations in a question that are totally outside the Standing Orders, but she cannot go on any further. I invite the Minister to answer what she has asked so far.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: I refer the member to the statement from the College of General Practitioners last year, in which it indicated support for the clinical pathways—
Lynne Pillay: No, no.
Hon Dr NICK SMITH: It was provided by Massey University, and I would be happy to seek leave of the House to table that statement. I further say to the member that I have been reluctant to interfere, and rightly so. I really think it will be a slippery slope if we have clinical decisions being made by Ministers of the Crown, let alone in an area that is as sensitive as that of support for those who have suffered sexual abuse.

GPs uneasy over ACC's changes

An article from the Press by Rebecca Todd
Doctors are concerned about the ACC's new way of dealing with sexual abuse claims, a survey shows.
The ACC changed the way sensitive claims are handled last October, prompting criticism from counsellors and victims.
In April, the Government announced a review of the changes, which require those making claims to have a firm diagnosis showing mental injury caused by sexual abuse. Counsellors are also not permitted to diagnose.
A Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners survey released to The Press yesterday showed many GPs were concerned about the changes.
About 40 per cent of 150 doctors surveyed had used the new system, and 70 per cent of those had concerns. These included delays for patients in getting counselling and lack of clarity on who was qualified to make an assessment.
GPs were also concerned about how much information the ACC now required and problems using the process for children under 17.
The survey results are part of the college's submission to the Government's review.
Christchurch GP and sexual-assault clinician Claire Healy said the new system had made it harder for victims to get help.
Before it was introduced, referring sexual-abuse patients for counselling was "fairly easy", she said.
Now it was difficult, confusing and involved them having to tell their story to several people, she said. This meant many victims just "gave up".
"They've just suffered a huge insult to their self-esteem anyway and are feeling battered," she said. "The idea of going through something even more traumatic is just too much."
Figures released in March showed just 32 sexual-abuse claims for counselling were approved in the first two months of this year, compared with 472 in January and February last year.
ACC general manager of claims Denise Cosgrove said the number had fallen because the corporation had previously been supporting people not covered by the legislation.
"The recent task force on sexual violence recognised that there are gaps in the services available to people who have suffered sexual abuse," she said.
"The changes the ACC brought in last year did not create those gaps, but may have highlighted them."
© 2010 Fairfax New Zealand Limited

20 June 2010

Survivor summit speech

A speech by Lynne Pillay delivered at the SOSA Summit, Auckland
Kia ora, good afternoon.
I stand before you today as Labour Spokesperson for Victims’ Rights and like so many people here a staunch campaigner and advocate for a return to a fair and just support system for survivors of sexual abuse.
Thanks to Gudrun, and the team of organisers, for bringing us here for the very first sexual abuse survivors' summit/hui. Congratulations on taking the initiative to make this happen and to give us an opportunity to share experiences and strengthen our collective voice. I am proud to be part of it.
I want to acknowledge the survivors who are here and also those who are not. The last several months have been a gruelling time for so many – counsellors, psychotherapists, professionals working in organisations who support survivors, advocates and even members of parliament. But it has been the hardest for survivors of sexual abuse who have been re-victimised by a cruel experiment which has had terrible consequences and has deprived them of the support they need and deserve. Thank you for your courage in being prepared to tell your stories – it has been effective and it has reinforced why the government MUST be challenged and held to account.
Can I make a special mention of the ACC Sensitive Claims panel who I understand have made the time to be here today. Former Mental Health Commissioner Dr Barbara Disley, Clinical psychologist Clive Banks, tireless community worker Ruth Herbert, and Professor Graham Mellsop. Thank you for being here. Thank you for listening. I am hearing positive things and I am cautiously optimistic. 
I do want to clarify issues with respect to the Review that relates to my Labour colleagues and me. Minister Nick Smith wrote to us earlier this year and asked us if we would like to view the terms of reference in confidence. We declined. We wrote back to the Minister asking for an urgent return to the status quo as we had enough real evidence and statistical information to know the new ACC-created pathway was not working, and that a restoration of something that did work was the first priority. We maintained that a review could be done in parallel while sexual abuse survivors could access help through the old process. Furthermore, we objected to being involved in any Terms of Reference which would be ‘in secret or in confidence’ – especially when connected to an issue that many people have fought for transparency and truth on.
Labour’s objections have been around the evidence, or the evident truths that survivors and sexual abuse experts alerted us to late last year. Their stories of frustration, desperation, and rage have continued and escalated since. We didn’t pluck this out of a hat and we have always been aware that we are dealing with a very sensitive issue and with people who must be treated with respect and dignity.
Last year there was the consultation with the sector on ACC’s ‘new pathway’ for sensitive claims. We assumed that consultation and the pathway was around the Massey Guidelines of 2008. Soon after, experts in the sector started contacting me with concerns. Many were very worried. There was a two week delay in the introduction of the new ACC-created pathway and finally, in October last year, a petition to delay implementation. 
The New Zealand Association of Psychotherapists (NZAP), the New Zealand Association of Counsellors (NZAC), the New Zealand Association of Christian Counsellors (NZACC), the New Zealand Association of Social Workers (NZASW) and almost 4000 people signed that petition. They stated:
All professionals involved in the treatment of these clients in New Zealand agree: that these proposed changes are clinically unsound, and contrary to ACC’s statutory requirement to provide treatment that conforms "to best clinical practice".
Under the changes ACC want to make it harder to get funding by making a diagnosis of mental illness a requirement. Furthermore they propose limiting funding to only sixteen sessions.
They also expect clients to disclose the assault(s) and then wait, with no counselling to happen until ACC has approved the claim. This process of approval currently takes weeks, sometimes months.
ACC claim to follow a recent research report titled “Massey Guidelines, 2008” yet have mis-interpreted the research report and used it to justify reduced funding for treatment.
At that time David Parker, Labour Spokesperson for ACC, and I met with Nick Smith, Dr Peter Jansen and ACC Officials to discuss our concerns about the ACC imposed pathway. We pushed to delay the implementation on the basis that the pathway was at completely at odds with the Massey Guidelines of which the first principle was about client safety. In fact the pathway had been described by many as unsafe, dangerous and would only serve to re-traumatise survivors. It became obvious that there was never going to be a meeting of minds and that the purpose of the meeting was to persuade us that the ACC pathway was in the best interest of all. I thought it would be helpful to point out to Dr Jansen that like me, a former nurse, as a GP he had no real understanding of this highly specialist work. It wasn’t helpful – Dr Jansen told me he was getting very angry. I was very tempted to advise him to see a counsellor!
Sadly, our combined efforts were unable to stop the introduction and the worries and concerns about what would happen after 27 October 2009, depressingly, came true.
Here we are seven days short of eight months later and the ACC-created pathway is still with us, with all the fallout – hundreds of counsellors and psychotherapists who are unable to do this work as they believe it is unsafe and unethical, the harsh system which discourages people from seeking help, for those in the system the moving of the goal posts so that virtually no one is eligible for treatment.
Examples include declining counselling for children who have been raped, rape victims still waiting after months for confirmation of counselling, people having to be deemed to have a mental illness to receive any assistance, the ludicrous situation where a survivor states that she is coping and is diagnosed as “in remission from depression” and is therefore ineligible for counselling – that same woman ending up in critical care with an overdose days later.  And the list goes on and on.
All of this was entirely preventable because people had predicted and warned of what would happen.
There has been a campaign to confuse and undermine around the new ACC-created pathway. The Minister is the biggest culprit. He has answered questions saying the ACC-created pathway was the Massey Guidelines, or based on the Massey guidelines. He has claimed all sorts of endorsements of the ACC-created pathway. First from the Royal NZ College of GPs – who said later it was the Massey Guidelines evidence they were welcoming. He claimed the RANZ College of Psychiatrists endorsed the ACC-created pathway when they had not. He backed away somewhat when Massey University wrote this letter:
You reported on October 28 that ACC Minister Nick Smith says the changes to rules for sex abuse claims were developed by Massey University. This is not correct.
The new ACC guidelines for sensitive claims, which ACC calls "clinical pathways" were developed by ACC itself. Staff of Massey University did develop sexual abuse and mental injury practice guidelines, which were launched last year and have been used successfully and without controversy by sensitive claims counsellors throughout New Zealand since then.
James Gardiner
Communications Director, Massey University, Auckland
October 29 2009
I often regret resorting to statistics because I know there is a person behind every statistic. I know there are families and their supporters and they are not counted in any statistic. What these statistics measure is the most personal declaration from a person who finds the courage to say the words "I was abused". Often they have marshalled support to take charge of their lives after others have taken control over their bodies. Statistics don’t mention the people who have not yet had the courage to make the first step. In statistics they do not yet exist.
So I apologise that I must quote from statistics but I am trying to hold the Minister and ACC accountable and gain documentation from a Government on behalf of the people. I submit Parliamentary questions to the Minister on a regular basis but I am appalled that official statistics have become increasingly more difficult to obtain under this Minister for ACC.
Around 200-250 people used to be approved for ACC-funded counselling each month in New Zealand prior to the introduction of the ACC-created pathway. 
Let me tell you what happened when I asked the Minister in April this year. I asked how many people had been approved for ACC-funded counselling in February 2010 and here is the answer from Nick Smith (Written question 01771 2010): Six people. When Phil Goff took this up with him in Question Time in Parliament he huffed and said that those figures were provisional, "it is double that now". Well, we did the maths ... 12 people. Twelve people can start their journey to heal. But now he will not update these figures. We suspect the new system is creating its own internal embarrassment especially as it has introduced two additional data categories entitled "Awaiting necessary external information" and "Under assessment for claims decision by ACC". Whatever happened to "Approved", "Pending" and "Declined"? Most people seem to be languishing in these new categories and the Minister has yet to provide the updated figures.
Just this week (2 June) Nick Smith responded to a repeated written question from me asking for updated figures from November 2009:
Question: What are the numbers of sensitive claims, lodged, accepted, declined, awaiting external information, under assessment by ACC for claims decision and duplicate, by region for November 2009?
Answer: I am unable to provide the Member with a full and accurate response within the required timeframe.  The information will be supplied to the Member as soon as it is available.
I would have thought figures from November 2009 would be available. Why on earth would they not be? 
But here we are in a room where there is transparency and truth. If any of you wish to look I have brought along with me all the oral questions Labour MPs have asked Nick Smith. If nothing else the answers are consistent although not true – the pathway is supported by professionals and it is based on the Massey Guidelines.
Whenever we feel thwarted or outraged by these sorts of answers or lack of answers Phil Goff, Annette King, David Parker and I continue to come back to the evidence of people’s experiences. We must honour people’s experiences and keep demanding that their voices be heard. That is why we raise this injustice time and time again in Parliament, in the media and in communities. It’s neither fair nor just and it certainly has not been transparent or truthful.
Truth and transparency are vital aspects of all of our professional and personal lives. It is what we strive for; we may miss the mark sometimes, but we come back to the first principles that the ‘truth must come out’ and ‘sunlight is the best disinfectant’. Breaches of trust range from minor, through to offences from which many find it almost impossible to find their way back from. But the human journey has been characterised by many stories of redemption and triumph over adversity. The people in this room know what I am talking about. I commend you and I along with my colleagues will continue to fight alongside you to restore a system where survivors of sexual abuse are able to access the support the need and deserve.
Thank you.

19 June 2010

Dancing star supports abuse summit

A news report from TVNZ
A Kiwi celebrity is putting his weight behind New Zealand's first ever Sexual Abuse Survivors' Summit drawing on his personal experience to help others.
Aaron Gilmore of Dancing with the Stars fame was abused for more than five years and will draw on his experience to be a key speaker at the summit tomorrow.
He was just 12-years-old when he was first sexually abused by a woman 23 years his senior.
"When I first met her she was very, very kind and caring so to have someone that was showing that interest, it was like a second mum," Gilmore says.
The woman continued the abuse for more than five years.
"There's a real learned helplessness about it and also I saw it as my fault," Gilmore says.
However, the abuse did not stop Gilmore from going on to have a successful dancing career and now he is using that profile to raise awareness about male sexual abuse ahead of the summit.
Organising committe member Gudrun Frerichs says it is often much more acceptable for females to go to counselling or to seek help but males tend to deal with things by themselves.
It is thought the number of boys abused before they hit 16 is around one in eight but Ken Clearwater who heads the Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse Trust says it is closer to one in three.
"It's just the fact that men and boys really struggle to come forward in our male culture to talk about being a victim of childhood sexual abuse or even adult men who've been raped, it's really hard for them to come forward and disclose that" says Clearwater.
Some researchers suggest the country's prisons hold many male sexual abuse victims, which is because studies show males often respond to their abuse violently later in life.
The summit already has around 100 people registered to attend and less than a quarter of those are men.
Copyright 2010 Television New Zealand Limited

18 June 2010

ACC admits new guidelines introduced too quickly

A report from Radio New Zealand News
The Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) says it may have moved too quickly in changing the way it handles sexual abuse claims.
New guidelines for sexual abuse sufferers introduced by the Government last year legally require the ACC, when considering the cases of people who say they have been sexually abused, to concentrate only on those who have a diagnosed mental injury.
Official figures show that only 15.6% of claims for sexual abuse counselling have been accepted: 178 out of 1137 since last October.
Labour's victims rights spokesperson, Lynne Pillay, says the figure is alarming. She says the new assessment procedures actually make the situation worse for sexual abuse victims.
ACC's general manager of claims management, Denise Cosgrove, says it might have moved a bit too quickly towards implementing the new approach.
Nearly 90% of the members of the Psychotherapists Association have chosen not to do assessments under the new guidelines and are questioning whether they are ethical.
An independent clinical review of the sensitive claims system is due to be provided to the ACC Minister next month.
Copyright © 2010 Radio New Zealand


ACC said rape pain not enough, alleged victim says

An article from the New Zealand Herald by Michael Dickison
Just days after being raped by a stranger, a 22-year-old woman received a letter from ACC saying that her pain wasn't enough to deserve counselling, she says.
Stricter rules around ACC sexual abuse counselling claims introduced last year have meant hundreds - almost 90 per cent - of people who have faced sexual abuse have had counselling claims either denied or delayed.
"It's just another humiliation, you know, having a faceless government institution saying that you need to get over it as well," said the woman, who nzherald.co.nz has agreed not to identify. "I'm not unreasonable. I know this happens to a lot of girls. I know I'm not the only one. It happens to a lot of guys as well.
"I know there's limited funds. But just the cold and calculated way they tell you, and the fact that they tell you your experience doesn't amount to enough pain - it's just another humiliation."
The Auckland woman said that earlier this year a man dressed as a security guard had offered to drive her home, then took her to an underground car park and raped her.
She said she arrived home shivering, petrified and almost broken. She went to police the next day, and received an initial treatment and assessment by a counsellor.
About a week later, she got a letter from ACC stating that it would not pay for any further counselling because her mental and physical injury was not sufficient, she said. "It's one of those things that you think about everyday and you know it might break you, and they just told me I didn't have sufficient mental or physical injuries, in a letter. Like they have any idea," the woman said. "I don't understand how anyone who hasn't met me can decide what it means to me or if it's caused sufficient pain or not.
"It's hard enough for people close to me to understand what I'm going through.
"The way they word [the letter] is particularly insulting. They know nothing about it. They've never met me. They know nothing about me."
The man accused of the rape is awaiting trial, expected to take place late this year.
A psychotherapist for sexual abuse, Christine Stewart, said many of her clients had been overwhelmed when faced with ACC's requirements for diagnoses, and she no longer undertook ACC work. Some people had committed suicide as a result, Ms Stewart said.
Yvie Stewart, a sexual abuse survivor who has organised a hui for people who have gone through abuse, said some had been made to wait months for ACC counselling and many were on suicide watch.
Survivors of Sexual Abuse New Zealand's Gudrun Frerichs offered pages from a survey of therapists expressing frustration and "distress" at having to put clients through the diagnosis process. The new rules restrict ACC counselling to people who have "a diagnosed mental injury resulting from sexual abuse or assault".
A form "to help determine cover for a sexual abuse claim" is available on ACC's website, to be filled out by accredited doctors. It asks five questions under "mental injury", covering a "full narrative description of the presenting signs and symptoms of mental injury", treatment history and diagnosis results.
ACC claims manager Denise Cosgrove told the Herald yesterday that this was laid down by law, but ACC was for many years "acting beyond its mandate and providing services to people not covered by its legislation".
An ACC spokesperson was not immediately available today to say what criterion likely saw the woman disqualified.
Copyright 2010 APN Holdings NZ Ltd

ACC failing to help most sex abuse victims

An article from the New Zealand Herald by Simon Collins
Almost 90 per cent of accident compensation claims for sexual abuse counselling have been either turned down or held for more information since tough new rules came into force last October.
Official figures from the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) confirm reports from counsellors that hundreds of victims of rape and other sexual abuse are being turned away from counselling.
Thousands more have been scared off applying for counselling, as the numbers applying have halved from a reported 550 a month last year to an average of 250 a month in the first six months after the new rules came into force on October 27.
Only 178 of the 1498 victims who applied for counselling in the six months to April 30 were accepted for counselling, an acceptance rate of 11.9 per cent.
Comparative data for recent years is no longer available on the ACC website, but ACC said in 2001 that 93.8 per cent of the sexual abuse claims received in the year to June 2001, or 5229 claims, were accepted.
A panel appointed by ACC Minister Nick Smith to review the new rules has agreed to attend what is said to be the world's first "sexual abuse survivors' summit" to hear submissions at the Auckland University of Technology's North Shore campus on Sunday. Written submissions to the panel close today.
Rape Prevention Education survivor advocate Louise Nicholas said the summit was initiated by counsellors who were concerned that they could no longer help many of the victims of sexual crimes who came to them. "It's inhumane what's going on," she said. "The good thing about it is that this review panel want to attend the summit so they can talk to survivors face to face. We are looking at anywhere between 100 and 300 people if not more."
The new rules restrict ACC counselling to victims who have "a diagnosed mental injury resulting from sexual abuse or assault".
ACC claims manager Denise Cosgrove said this was laid down by law, but ACC was for many years "acting beyond its mandate and providing services to people not covered by its legislation". She said almost half (46 per cent) of the claims rejected in the six months to April came through a new emergency health service for sexual abuse victims and were declined "because at the time of lodgement for most people there is no mental injury, only an acute event".
Other claims were rejected because the client decided not to accept help (18 per cent), did not provide enough information (18 per cent), had "no new or clear mental injury" (7 per cent), the mental injury was not clearly due to the sexual abuse (6 per cent) or the sexual abuse was not established (4 per cent).
The Psychotherapists' Association representative on the ACC's sensitive claims advisory group, Kyle MacDonald, said even where a victim had been diagnosed with a mental illness, it was often difficult to pin the illness solely to being raped or sexually abused. "With childhood sexual abuse where there may be a 20-year or 30-year delay between abuse and presentation [for help], ultimately you can always find a reason to decline claims if you look hard enough," he said.
Counsellors' Association representative Elayne Johnston said ACC assessors did not seem to realise being raped was different from breaking a leg. "We're talking about people who've had a crime committed on them," she said.
Dr Barbara Disley, the former Mental Health Commission head who leads the four-person review panel, said the panel had met several professional associations and planned further meetings next week. She said the panel hoped to report back to Dr Smith by July 31.
Copyright 2010 APN Holdings NZ Ltd

17 June 2010

An important reminder

A message from Lynne Pillay
Greetings all,
An important reminder that submissions for the Review into the Sensitive Claims Clinical Pathway close tomorrow.
For those who have not yet finalised or submitted their submissions I urge you do so now.  So much energy has been put in by so many people over the last several months and there is no time better than now to have your voice heard.
Below is a link to Kyle MacDonald’s blog with details, in easy steps, on how to submit your submission: www.psychotherapy.org.nz/index.php?page=blog
To ensure that your submission is received on time you will need to email it to ClinicalPathwayReviewSubmissions@researchnz.com
We in Labour are continuing to hold the National government to account over their ongoing re-victimisation of victims of sexual abuse by the ACC Sensitive Claims Unit.
Kind regards,
Lynne Pillay

15 June 2010

Feel the fear and do it anyhow

A blog entry from SOSA
Since we have decided to start SOSA NZ and organise the summit - which is only 6 days away - we have had a very mixed bag of responses of which the most heart wrenching were connections we have made with survivors...
Read the rest of this entry at http://gfrerichs.typepad.com/sashui/2010/06/feel-the-fear-and-do-it-anyhow.html

11 June 2010

Anger forces ACC sex abuse review

An article from Hawkes Bay Today by Jolene Williams
Survivors of sexual abuse say changes to ACC funding have left them retraumatised after longer waits, more assessments and tighter controls on eligibility.
A Hastings registered psychotherapist Beverly Kearse said she used to receive "one or two" inquiries every week from victims of sexual abuse. That number had dropped to one or two a month.
Pathways programme is now under review by an independent panel, seven months after its implementation.
Under the changes, survivors of sexual abuse have to undergo two independent psychological assessments. Previously ACC accepted claims recommended by a range of providers including counsellors, psychotherapists and social workers. The changes introduced in October meant victims saw up to three different providers. The process delayed treatment and forced victims to relive their experience.
According to the New Zealand Psychological Society, assessments by multiple clinicians is "considered psychologically unsafe by many clients and may deter people from seeking help when they need it".
Criteria for mental injury was also more stringent and according to clinicians further dissuaded people who suffered from trauma from seeking treatment that required them to have a mental illness.
ACC-approved cases were down from 472 in the first two months of last year to 32 over the same period this year.
The new programme also saw counselling sessions drop from a maximum of 30 to 16. Victims required further assessment for additional sessions. Sarah Tait-Jamieson, a local registered psychotherapist, said 16 sessions were "barely enough" as treatment for sexual abuse victims was "very very slow".
National psychological bodies and victim-support groups have publicly criticised the changes.
Dr Kim McGregor, co-chair of National Sexual Violence network, said the rules had caused a "virtual collapse of sexual abuse counselling".
National media have reported cases where the new processes have had a catastrophic effect.
In April the New Zealand Herald reported an Auckland mother committed suicide four days after her claim for ACC-funded counselling was rejected on the grounds she did not suffer "significant mental injury". The woman had waited six months for the decision.
Clinical Pathways has put added pressure on psychological resources which, according to the New Zealand Psychological Society, were already scarce. As a result, survivors are waiting longer to receive treatment, often outside ACC's Sensitive Claims Unit aim to assess all claims within six weeks.
The changes were influenced by a four-year study by Massey University's School of Psychology.
ACC Minister Nick Smith said: "The driver for those changes has always been to provide survivors of sexual abuse or sexual assault who have a mental injury with a better level of assistance, and to help them achieve a more timely and successful recovery." Dr Smith proposed the review when the programme was launched to ensure ACC was "on the right track". He acknowledged the changes had caused controversy and stated they had never been about cost savings.
The review panel is expected to report back in July.

Changes to ACC

An invitation from Auckland Sexual Abuse Help
ACC has recently made changes to their processes for victims/survivors of sexual violence. Opposition to these changes has been strong.
Minister for ACC Nick Smith has agreed to a review of the changes after 6 months. You can have your say in that review by telling us about your experience with ACC.

Survivors: You can tell us about your experience by
1. Filling in this online survey
2. Telling your story to Louise Nicholas, by emailing her at louise@rapecrisis.org.nz
NB: We want to use your story anonymously to communicate with ACC and the public, so it is important that you are happy with that.

Practitioners: can
1. Fill in this online survey
2. Use this paper survey and post to ACC Survey, PO Box 10-345, Dominion Rd, Auckland 1446 by 16 April 2010
3. Send narrative information to k.mcphillips@sexualabusehelp.org.nz

10 June 2010

Have your say and contribute to the NCWNZ submission to the ACC Review Panel

An invitation from the National Council of Women
NCWNZ will be submitting our views to the ACC Review Panel this month and asks all interested parties to get involved by sending us your responses to these questions.
NCWNZ is of the belief that the ACC clinical pathway for survivors of sexual abuse is discriminatory. NCWNZ holds this opinion because without treatment, survivors are deprived of the opportunity to realise their authentic self, their skills and capabilities, their honest behaviour as it relates to their caring for children, pursuance of a career which actually meets their intellect, their healthy interaction and appreciation of their many and diverse relationships.
Please email lyndasutherland@ncwnz.org.nz the answers to the following questions by the 14th June:
  1. In what ways do you see the current ACC clinical pathway as being discriminatory?
  2. How can this be rectified, i.e. what changes are needed to the ACC clinical pathway?
  3. Please note any further concerns or information you would like the ACC Review Panel to be aware of.
Have a voice! Give us your thoughts, your stories and we will present them to the Review Panel.

09 June 2010

ACC Review Panel joins conference

A press release from SOSA
The government-appointed Independent Review Panel for ACC’s contentious new Clinical Pathway joins others at SOSA’s (Survivors of Sexual Abuse) invitation for June 20th inaugural Summit at AUT North Shore Campus.
This gives survivors the opportunity to have their say about what services they need from ACC, as well as have fun, be inspired and pampered, take back power, find their voices and unite.
“It's about time survivors had their say,” says the initiator of this important day, Dr Gudrun Freirichs. “The NZ government and ACC are part of the silencing by relying heavily on the medical profession and labelling us mentally ill. If we don’t fit the diagnosis, they are washing their hands of us while our perpetrators get unlimited help and counselling in prison programmes or the SAFE Network.
“Why lock up sexual perpetrators if what they do to their victims doesn’t warrant government support?” she asks. “Given that 1 in 4 females and 1 in 10 males experience sexual abuse by the age of 18 means that there are plenty of perpetrators out there interested in silencing us.”
Dr Freirichs goes on to say that sexual abuse destroys individuals and families. “This has to stop”, she says. Frierichs encourages speaking out, “Survivors need to know they are not alone.”
Well-known survivors Louise Nicholas and Aaron Gilmore from Dancing with the Stars will speak at the hui. Artist Tania Blomfeld organiser of “Courageous Women” t-shirts is running the art workshop, while Labour MP Lynne Pillay will give the forum a political edge.
Join the fight for recognition and better services by registering at www.sosanz.com until Friday 11th, or pay $20.00 at the door. SOSA organisers are encouraging registration using a pseudonym, should that feel more anonymous.

08 June 2010

Sex abuse survivors offer help

An article from Stuff
Louise Nicholas says she intends to use her public profile to help the silent survivors of sexual abuse in her new national role as a "survivor advocate". Mrs Nicholas, who will report to a government taskforce on sexual violence, officially announced her role in Auckland last night.
Mrs Nicholas was speaking at the launch of a self-help book for the survivors of sexual abuse, written by the director of Rape Prevention Education, Dr Kim McGregor. She was joined by Dancing With the Stars dancer Aaron Gilmore, a survivor of sexual abuse and a volunteer for the organisation.
Dr McGregor said the role formalised what Mrs Nicholas had already been doing since her high-profile rape case against former police officers Brad Shipton, Bob Schollum and Clint Rickards. All three were acquitted, and it was revealed later that Shipton and Schollum had been convicted in 2005 of the pack rape of another woman in Mt Maunganui in 1989.
Mrs Nicholas has been given government funding for a year to collect the stories of other sexual violence victims for schools, health professionals and policymakers.
Figures showed 24 per cent of Auckland women and 28 per cent of North Waikato women were abused by the age 15 and 32 per cent of Otago women (out of nearly 500 interviewed in the early 1990s) were abused before the age of 16.
Mrs Nicholas said her role was to be an advocate for survivors of sexual violence. "I see the role as a voice to speak for those who can't speak for themselves."
She started work as a full-time "survivor advocate" for RPE in Auckland on July 12, and has already spent two weeks supporting a rape victim through an Auckland court case.
After her experiences Mrs Nicholas said she had heard from the "silent survivors". "It just tears at my heart.
"These women say to me we have got the courage to do what you've done because of you.
"That's huge, to be able to admit that, there's no shame in that.
"Eventually I would like to see this role extended across the country so there are many of us helping other sexual abuse survivors."
Gilmore, 29, who was sexually abused by a woman 25 years older than him from age 11 to 17 has recently become a volunteer for RPE.
Gilmore's abuser was convicted several years ago and he hopes he will give other survivors, particularly men the strength to come forward. "The only thing more common than sexual abuse is the cold."
Gilmore said he was an anomaly when he first went to police because he was a male victim with a female offender. A policeman to whom he first spoke about the abuse told him he failed to see what the crime was. "My first experiences with the legal side of things were quite horrible."
Dr McGregor said sexual violence had fallen off the political agenda over the last 20 years. There were 25 rape crisis groups in the 1980s and now there were about 12, she said. "I feel more positive now than I have in 20 years and that's because of the taskforce on sexual violence and that is a result of the bravery of Louise Nicholas.
"We started campaigning for the taskforce on the back of the marches throughout the country in outrage over the acquittals.
"Even though it has been a devastating thing for her (Mrs Nicholas), she has made it a positive thing."

06 June 2010

Sexual abuse survivors fight back after support is cut

An article from Te Waha Nui by Michelle Norton
Feeling neglected by the Government’s ACC shake-up, a group of sexual abuse survivors, counsellors and therapists have taken action.
Those who have been sexually abused are now required to prove a mental illness to get help and are now only given 16 weeks of counselling.
Survivors of Sexual Abuse NZ (SOSA) have organised a summit to be held on June 20 at AUT University’s Akoranga campus.
Karen Andersen, one of the organisers, said the organising team was a group of around 10 people who were either therapists or sexual abuse survivors and some who were both.
Yvie Stewart, a sexual abuse survivor and one of the sunmit organisers, said they were hoping to fill up the lecture theatre with around 200 people.
The summit programme has several guest speakers, including sexual abuse survivor Louise Nicholas, Labour MP Lynne Pillay, Denise Ritchie from End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and the Trafficking of Children for Commercial Sexual Purposes (ECPAT) and Ken Clearwater from Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse Trust (MSSAT).
Stewart is also going to speak and she said it had taken her a while to be able to do so. “It was like stepping through an iron door that I had in front of me and coming through it.”
She said it was more than just a summit. “It is about how we can help where the Government is not.” She said they wanted to send a message out to those who have been sexually abused were not seeking help.
Andersen agreed. “Many survivors feel so alone and have been put back socially.” She said everyone affected by sexual abuse had a different healing experience and recovery was about “finding one’s own strength”.
Labour MP and associate spokesperson for victim’s rights Lynne Pillay said she willingly signed up to speak at the summit. “I am very in awe and impressed with all the work that’s being done. I really welcome the summit.’
Pillay said she encouraged people to take part in the independent review of ACC in June.
Andersen said there may be a small number attending the summit that want to take political action such as write letters to Parliament but this was not the intent. She said they were hoping to provide “a sense of wellbeing, a sense of being inspired”. “They can see that others have forged ahead.”
Pillay said survivors of sexual abuse had been badly treated by the policy changes. “We need to return to the previous system where survivors were given the help they need and deserve.
“The majority of people are either being denied help or are languishing, waiting to see whether they will get help.
“I think that the way they’ve been treated is abhorrent.”

05 June 2010

The Independent Review of ACC's Clinical Pathway at the Summit

A blog entry from SOSA
The government has appointed a panel of four professionals with the task to review ACC's new Clinical Pathway. Survivors, therapists, and other health professionals are invited to make submissions for the review panel to consider. Submissions can be sent to: ClinicalPathwayReviewSubmissions@researchnz.com.
The members of the Review Panel have agreed to accept our invitation to come to the summit so that attending survivors have the opportunity to talk to them about their experiences with the new pathway. This is a unique opportunity for survivors to be heard.
So don't delay and register here for the summit. Not only will you have the opportunity to speak to the review panel, you also can listen to inspirational male and female speakers, part take in interesting workshops, and try out some lovely pampering like massage or yoga.

02 June 2010

Questions for written answer

10102 (2010). Lynne Pillay to the Minister for ACC: What are the numbers of sensitive claims, lodged, accepted, declined, awaiting external information, under assessment by ACC for claims decision and duplicate, by region for November 2009?
Hon Dr Nick Smith (Minister for ACC) replied: Corrected reply: I refer the Member to the attached table which shows all new sensitive claims lodged with ACC in November 2009, by region of accident and the claim's current decision status as at 29 May 2010.

10103 (2010). Lynne Pillay to the Minister for ACC: What are the numbers of sensitive claims, lodged, accepted, declined, awaiting external information, under assessment by ACC for claims decision and duplicate, by region for November 2009?
Hon Dr Nick Smith (Minister for ACC) replied: Corrected reply: I refer the member to my answer to Parliamentary Question for Written Reply 10102 (2010).

10104 (2010). Lynne Pillay to the Minister for ACC: What are the numbers of sensitive claims, lodged, accepted, declined, awaiting external information, under assessment by ACC for claims decision and duplicate, by region for May 2010?
Hon Dr Nick Smith (Minister for ACC) replied: Corrected reply: I refer the Member to the attached table which shows all new sensitive claims lodged with ACC between 01 and 29 May 2010, by region of accident and the claim's current decision status as at 29 May 2010. Note that data for the whole of May was not available at the time this information was collated.

Public submissions welcomed for review of ACC’s sensitive claims pathway

A press release from the New Zealand Association of Psychotherapists
In October last year in response to an online petition signed by nearly 4000 New Zealanders, the Hon Dr Nick Smith promised the new clinical pathway for the treatment of sensitive claims would be subject to an independent clinical review. That day has now arrived.
Professional bodies around New Zealand are currently organising to make both written and verbal presentations to the review panel, headed by Dr Barbara Disley, past chief executive of the Mental Health Foundation and the inaugural chair of the Mental Health Commission.
The review panel is also hoping to receive submissions from members of the public and anyone affected by the changes to the treatment of sensitive claims by ACC.
Individuals’ submissions can be made in writing, or via audio or video recordings. These submissions can be sent via email to ClinicalPathwayReviewSubmissions@researchnz.com or mailed to: Independent Clinical Review Panel, PO Box 1039, Wellington 6140.
It is imperative that ACC and the National Government receive a clear message: that this new clinical pathway has been an unmitigated disaster, and led to the destruction of a world leading system for the support and treatment of those affected by sexual abuse and assault in Aotearoa New Zealand.
For more information about how to make a simple online submission to the review panel please see www.psychotherapy.org.nz

01 June 2010

ACC sensitive claims

A press release from the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners
The College’s ACC Sensitive Claims Survey closed on Thursday. We received 148 responses, conveying a wide range of views. Susan Dovey, Associate Professor from Otago University, is analysing responses and we hope to report her findings next Tuesday.
The Minister for ACC has set up an independent Panel, chaired by Dr Barbara Disley, to review the Sensitive Claims Clinical Pathway. The panel is receiving written submissions from organisations and people affected by the changes with the introduction of the Clinical Pathway. To be considered, submissions must reach the panel by Friday 18 June 2010. They can be emailed to ClinicalPathwayReviewSubmissions@researchnz.com or posted to the panel at PO Box 1039, Wellington 6140. Information on the review and the Terms of Reference is available at http://www.beehive.govt.nz/release/sensitive+claims+review+announced.
The College will be making a submission to the panel. Copies of individual submissions and comments to contribute to the College submission can be sent to policy@rnzcgp.org.nz before 14 June.

How you can help (again)

A blog entry by Kyle MacDonald
It hardly seems like eight months ago most of you signed an online petition, and as a result of all your signatures and the concerted efforts of many, we were promised an independent clinical review of the New Treatment Pathway for Sensitive Claims.
Well the day has finally arrived, and the Independent Review Panel has put the open sign up on their front door, and opened shop.  And I thought I might make it easy for the New Zealand public to make submissions.  Simply chose your preferred difficulty level (Easy, Medium or Hard) from below and follow the simple steps.
Read the rest of this entry at http://www.psychotherapy.org.nz/index.php?page=blog