Changes to ACC and sexual abuse victims

The Herald reports:

ACC will pay for every cent of rape victims’ counselling as part of a major overhaul of its sensitive claims system later this year.

The corporation is bracing for a significant increase in the number of sensitive claims in the next six years as the stigma around sexual violence is increasingly broken down in New Zealand.

In response, it was planning an expanded, more flexible service which took into account the sensitivity, length of time, and cost of treating rape-related trauma. These changes were based on the recommendations of a highly critical independent in 2010. …

ACC strategy manager for sexual violence Emma Powell said the overhaul would give victims more time, funding and choice.

“We are no longer going to be approving 10 counselling sessions here, or 10 there, we are actually saying ‘Here’s 12 months, you and your therapists … build a programme around the person’s needs … and that’s about providing a much more holistic approach’.

“We’re throwing away the calendar and throwing away the clock and just letting people focus on getting better.” …

At present, ACC funded counselling for rape victims but only up to $80 for a one-hour session. Counsellors often charged a “top-up”, or additional fee of up to $90.

Ms Powell said the corporation was concerned that this cost was putting people off a crucial service. Claimants were taking an average of 7.8 sessions despite being entitled to 16 sessions, or more depending on their circumstances.

Under the new service, ACC would cover the full cost of the sessions. The overhaul would also allow victims to shop around for a therapist who they felt comfortable with.

These are very significant changes. The estimated cost to levy payers is an extra $45 million per year.

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