One of my tasks is to keep an eye out for signs of any issues and matters have come to my attention that have caused concern. It is true that the SCU is the best it has ever been and many good people have done a lot of good work. However forces that are not friendly to us are always present and the people who have worked so hard for us cannot withstand those political forces forever.
It is fortunate that a Sensitive Claimant network is being created and I implore all Sensitive Claimants to make sure they are fully informed at all times. This is a time of preparation and the time frame is short.
Sensitive Claimants in receipt of ERC need to check their IRP's. All claimants should consider obtaining a copy of their ACC Case File. Check your medical reports and make sure you have recent medical opinion from at least a Psychologist. Make sure your GP has a copy of all medical reports and is willing to provide a supporting report.
If you start to feel pressured then require written communication and decline all verbal communication. Whole Person Impairment assessments are a source of significant risk and should be avoided at this stage. Do not be deceived or intimidated if you are informed by provider or ACC that they have done all that they are required to do or all they can do.
The legislation requires treatment based on the presentation of the covered injury which is a clinical consideration that cannot be trumped by ACC policy or process.
State of Readiness Required
Impairment Assessments a Risk
The Whole Person Impairment Unit is a vexed issue for Sensitive Claimants. Sensitive Claimants are heavily dependent on this entitlement as the majority do not qualify for earnings related compensation (ERC). The situation is exacerbated by the fact that out of all the Units within ACC, the WPI Unit has proven itself the most impervious to legal and political attack.
An attempt was made last year to address the concerns regarding fairness and procedure last year but these attempts were met with a stony faced judiciary and a general unwillingness to even consider the issues raised.
Therefore the only way of responding to those issues is to put in place processes at a claimant activist level. The risk that Sensitive Claimants face is that the WPI assessor will throw an Axis II diagnosis on to the file. Borderline Personality Disorder is the preferred choice for these assessors. I will detail the specifics relating to the misuse of Axis II diagnosis's in a separate article.
Any claimant seeking an WPI should be aware that it is vital that their treatment providers have specifically excluded Axis II disorders as part of their condition. This will provide at least partial protection. I have been informed that the SCU is putting in a process that will give the SCU oversight of the WPI process but whether this will be helpful remains to be seen.
This new process could either way. It can empower the SCU to ensure these rogue diagnosis's are nipped in the bud or the process could be used to ensure that the claimant has no or little ability to fight the WPI outcome. Claimants should consider putting their WPI assessments on hold until we are organized enough to approach ACC and the legislators on mass.
Meeting with Fairway
In 2015 a situation arose which led to Fairway bringing in a specialized regime for reviewing Sensitive Claims. This regime came into being after negotiations between Fairway and Cassandra after an erroneous event occurred when one of my clients claim was reviewed.
It was therefore a source of significant concern when I was informed by Fairway in 2016 that they had removed the regime put in place. There was little in the way of explanation and a change in CEO meant my ability to respond was limited.
Certainly the option to go on a war footing was available and it was certainly considered. The alternative was to get a new door opened to raise matters with the Fairway executive but how was the question.
It was clear I needed an ally and I found one. The Sensitive Claims Unit. What? I hear you say. I know what you mean. If there was ever a man bites dog situation I was looking at it. SCU management arranged a meeting with the Fairway CEO.
Issues for Sensitive Claimants were raised and discussed in detail. The outcome was that it was agreed the new regime for reviews would go a long way and Fairway agreed to put in place a mechanism for Sensitive Claims issues to addressed. The result was satisfactory to all parties. More on the Fairway changes in a later article.
2016 Discussion Outcomes
I attended discussions late last year with ACC senior management at a Reviewer led meeting which was very productive. The meeting lasted about four hours and I put several issues forward for ACC to consider.
I put it to ACC that not enough focus was being put on understanding the full nature of the offenders and the offenses they commit. The Section 21 consideration is concerned with these matters but I had reached the view the focus on the Section 27 consideration had eclipsed the wider consideration.
I put it to ACC that they would demystify sexual assault victims experiences and outcomes if they understood both considerations before applying them to the wider context. I put it to ACC that staff needed to be trained to fully understand the actions of abusers.
ACC were receptive to my points and I am confident that they have assisted the process for claimants to one degree or another. Cassandra Complex will be detailing arguments such as these in an effort to improve outcomes for sexual assault victims.
WPI Threat Diminished by SCU Oversight
The WPI process is fraught for all claimants and for the majority of Sensitive Claimants the only financial entitlement they will receive. As I stated earlier the WPI Unit has proven incredibly resistant to change or improvement and appealing to the judiciary was spectacularly unsuccessful. The WPI Unit is an enigma in need of serious scrutiny but in the meantime the protection of Sensitive Claimants is a matter of urgency.
I was very pleased to discover that the SCU was one step ahead of me and is in the process of finalizing its own system for monitoring and dealing with WPI claims. This does not mean that the SCU will be running the main WPI process. That part of the process will remain with the WPI Unit. What that means is (finer details aside) that the SCU will be maintaining an oversight of the process to ensure the supported assessment model is conducted to the required standard at a WPI level.
This is good news. I have recently dealt with a claim where a WPI issue became apparent and the SCU responded to the issues in a constructive and meaningful way. It is becoming clear that the SCU is creating an important safety net and that is good news for all of us.
Ongoing SCU Issues
29th of April 2017
Notable Progress to Date
I have had the opportunity to meet SCU staff from upper management through to front line staff. I was able to raise subject matter that allowed me to see if our issues truly resonated. I am pleased and relieved that I saw that for the most part we are dealing with essentially good and reasonable people. It is true that we are dealing with a vastly improved culture at the Unit. So the issue of dealing with an entrenched and hostile SCU has been addressed at many levels. It is now time to consider additional wider issues that will always require vigilance.