Wednesday October 17, 2018
Monday, 30 April 2018 03:22

New Advocacy Service a Start, but not the Solution

Acclaim Otago is welcoming ACC’s announcement of a new service which will go some way to addressing the access to justice issues that people who want to challenge ACC decisions face. However, spokesperson Denise Powell says “While this is a start, it most definitely is not the solution”.

This has been a very slow process. It was nearly two years ago that Nicki Kaye, then Minister for ACC, ACC and MBIE were provided with Miriam Dean QC’s report (May 2016). In that report, Ms Dean recommended funding a free nationwide advocacy service modelled broadly on the Health and Disability Commission Advocacy Service.

The service’s roles and responsibilities are set out in the Health and Disability Commissioner Act 1994. The director of advocacy, who reports to the Health and Disability Commissioner, contracts with the National Advocacy Trust for advocates to provide advocacy services and also monitors the quality of that work.

Forty-six advocates at 23 offices around the country help consumers resolve complaints about health and disability services, and in more than 90 per cent of cases they are successful. The organisation received nearly $3.4 million for 2015-16. Admittedly, the advocacy service has a complaints resolution focus, whereas ACC must assess a claimant’s statutory entitlements. But it nonetheless shows what could be done to support and empower claimants.

(Dean Review p 56, 2016)

Since that time Acclaim Otago has contributed to ACC’s consultations with the sector. The preferred approach identified by the sector was the creation of a new one-stop shop advocacy entity (Identified in the briefing document) Briefing document for ACC Minister and ACC Executive team - Navigation service (PDF 2.3 MB) and similar to the Health and Disability Advocacy service also identified by Ms Dean. “This unfortunately seems to have been ignored based on timeliness and cost” says Dr Powell.

“Our key concern is the fact that the Dean Review clearly identified the need for people who wish to dispute an ACC decision to have better access to lawyers and advocates and recommended a free nationwide advocacy service as part of that. We believe ACC is sidestepping the recommendation by claiming this is a “Navigation service” rather than an advocacy service. Navigation through a process is not advocacy and as such falls short of the Review’s recommendation in our opinion” Dr Powell states.

Acclaim Otago still believes a report produced in 2017 titled “Solving the Problem” holds the answer to this and the other issues confirmed as valid by the Dean Review. Powell concludes “Establishing a Personal Injury Commissioner who would have independent oversight including provision of a robust advocacy service and that could work in the same way as the Health and Disability Commissioner would definitely improve transparency, and access to justice issues”

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