ACC as model for welfare?

May 31st, 2010 at 6:14 am by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

ACC’s focus on getting beneficiaries back to work could become a model for those on long-term social , invalid and sickness benefits, says Social Development Minister .

Such a new direction would be costly, for example, by funding drug and alcohol rehabilitation and other treatments for social welfare beneficiaries, she said. And it could require a culture change to address.

As a taxpayer it is a cost I would be fairly happy to pay, if successful.

Ms Bennett told the Herald she had particular concerns about people as young as 16 and 17 being put on the invalid’s benefit for conditions such as Asperger’s Syndrome or low-level mental illness and remaining on it for a lifetime.

“It feels like sometimes in Work and Income that the whole system is set up to concentrate on what people can’t do.

“If we change that whole culture into one of what can they do, what can we actually do to get that support … it would make a big difference.”

A focus on treatment and work sounds good to me.

10 Responses to “ACC as model for welfare?”

  1. Grant Michael McKenna (1,166 comments) says:

    I work with people who have developmental disabilities, and have seen several cases of people with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) who are capable of functioning in society but who because of their diagnosis were on a WINZ benefit. For their good- ie their integration into society- great effort has been spent on getting them jobs, but the problem is that WINZ works to a rule: ASD= benefit, with no attempt to characterise the condition as mild or severe impairment.
    The people that I work with are not able to work, but I have known several who can- and seen the problems in getting them to be employed.

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  2. Grant Michael McKenna (1,166 comments) says:

    I should say ” no real effort”; I have no doubt that some WINZ flunky has made a phone-call to three employers and asked if they had a job for a man with Asperger’s, got a negative response and ticked the box which says “unemployable”. We have a team which matches skills to training and goes from there.

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  3. Thomas the Unbeliever (141 comments) says:

    In my experience ACC is not focussed with getting people back to work; they are focussed on getting people off ACC. That is an entirely different objective.

    ACC clients are not beneficiaries – they are clients. Whilst ACC is not an insurance company (yet), its obligations to its clients are more comparable such a business than they are to MSD. The principal comparison between MSD and ACC is that both are controlled by government and statute.

    ACC clients are forced by statute to forgo their right to sue and to pay their premiums to ACC (either directly via levies or indirectly). In return, they have recourse to the limited assistance of ACC, offered only on ACC’s terms and policies.

    For those clients with easily defined and short term injuries as a result of trauma, ACC is often a great service. It sits behind the scenes as a funder of treatment – largely invisible. However, for those with long term or complex injuries ACC can be an entirely different beast.

    Many clients find their struggle to rehabilitate/recover becomes secondary to their struggle with ACC to be treated with respect and fairness. I have a number of client’s who, after many years struggle, believe the greatest injury they have suffered is dealing with ACC – not their original trauma.

    You need to look no further than the Giltrap decision to see the sort of injustice that can occur under ACC. Their decision to limit the assistance they offer is generally at the expense of the clients who have the greatest need – victims of complex or serious trauma.

    It is interesting to see that in the recent decision in Vandy (which appears to overturn part of the Giltrap decision), ACC’s policy of doing what is best for ACC, rather than doing what is best for the client, has been challenged. It is hoped that the courts can continue to force some balance back into how ACC is administered.

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  4. JC (1,102 comments) says:

    The Minister has a useful view of the problems, but first she needs to strip out the “half and half” syndrome in both organisations where they overlap as funders for eg, mental problems arising from sexual abuse.

    One needs to be a clean work and accident funder and rehabilitator, and the other should deal with the much more murky business of social welfare. A “clean” ACC could then be a useful model for dealing with some aspects of social welfare in the business of rehabilitation.

    One of the problem areas for both organisations is the way they treat formerly productive people who have succumbed to easily recognised lifetime diseases like stroke, MS etc. These people have purchased homes and are /were bringing up families when disease struck, yet they are tipped automatically into the hands of the much less well paying MSD.

    Maybe we need a third way of looking at recompense and rehab, ie, scrap both organisations, cut the tax from both and develop a well run and monitored compulsory insurance scheme that treats everyone on their merits.. now thats radical! 🙂


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  5. frog (84 comments) says:

    The idea could have some merit if it were based on the original Woodhouse principles ACC was founded on but has long since deviated from, DPF.

    But my bet is that it won’t, and that Thomas the Unbeliever above is pretty much spot on.

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  6. burt (11,491 comments) says:


    ACC was actually founded on Bismark’s social policy principles circa 1900. The Woodhouse review was a significant departure from the original principles and interestingly the German model is still used as a benchmark that other countries model from.

    We (NZ) are alone in our implementation, possibly alone because it is mental to socialise a no fault system and possibly alone because it is a great idea to socialise a no fault system when you can ignore what it costs. We can’t ignore what it costs so we must just be mental to continue with our own unique twist on a well thought out and well used concept.

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  7. burt (11,491 comments) says:


    See: Introduction to ACC

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  8. Jeremy Harris (323 comments) says:

    Can someone please explain to Ms. Bennett how Reserve Banking works… When employment gets too low it drives inflation, so the RBNZ raises interest rates to slow economic growth (curbing inflation) and raise unemployment meaning we never get lower than 3% unemployment…

    The best thing to do with those who are unemployed and don’t want to work (about 0.5% of the working age population) is to let them not work and give the jobs that come up to those that are unemployed and do want to work…

    This is not going to change until we change; monetary policy, welfare policy or government spending policy…

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  9. Steve (4,968 comments) says:

    ACC as a model for welfare? ha! don’t make me laugh.
    I am now only just back at work after an injury 15 months ago. During the tightening process I was one of those dropped by ACC. Degeneration was the reason but hang on, there was no degeneration problem before the injury. Second surgery was not funded and I spent 6 months with absolutely no income (you can not apply for any other benifit while an ACC review is in process)

    So Dr Nick Smith, if I should have a similar injury in the future (neck/spine) am I covered or will ACC say it is degeneration?
    If I am not covered why am I still paying premiums as a 20 year old just because I am over 50?
    Each of you (Nick Smith, Paula Bennett, Pansy Wong, John Key) have had emails which you either passed on or ducked for cover. “You now have a claim for “Treatment Injury” so it would be inapropiate to comment” You never made a comment worth more than a tin of shit anyway! This has cost me thousands of dollars not to mention the stress on my family.

    Thomas the Unbeliever, I would like to talk with you. I will email DPF and see if we can get email going.
    That’s if it is ok with you of course.


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  10. Thomas the Unbeliever (141 comments) says:

    Steve, happy to converse by email – although, as a general rule, I like to hide online behind the cloak of anonymity for professional reasons. I suspect I am not alone in that.

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