Politics
Tuesday December 11, 2018
Sunday, 06 December 2015 13:44

Govt 'focused on access to justice for ACC clients'

ACC Minister Nikki Kaye today announced the release of a discussion paper on the proposed Accident Compensation Appeal Tribunal.
"After listening to stakeholders’ concerns, the Government agreed in June 2015 to review the decision to establish a stand-alone tribunal. This was to take into account work ACC has been doing to resolve accident compensation disputes early on, to consider different options for dealing with accident compensation appeals, and to allow for targeted consultation with key stakeholders," says Ms Kaye.

The discussion paper seeks feedback from key stakeholders including claimant support groups, advocates and lawyers on four options:
- retaining the District Court and current rules for dealing with accident compensation appeals
- retaining the District Court and changing the rules for dealing with accident compensation appeals
- replacing the current approach with an Accident Compensation Appeal Tribunal, made up of specialist Tribunal members led by a Tribunal Chair
- modifying the proposed Tribunal to be led by a District Court Judge.
"On average, ACC declines around three per cent of the claims it receives each year," says Ms Kaye.
"Reasons why claims may be declined include that there is no entitlement to cover under the law, which ACC is required to apply. In these cases, assistance may still be available from other agencies in the health and welfare systems.
"However, it’s important to me that people who wish to challenge ACC decisions have access to fair, effective and timely processes to do this. That’s why the Government originally agreed in 2014 to establish a new Accident Compensation Appeal Tribunal, with the overall aim of reducing the time it takes to deal with appeals.
"While it’s positive that progress has been made by ACC and the court system to reduce the overall number and average time of cases going through the courts, it is still taking an average of 669 days. This is too long for people wanting resolution of their case.
"ACC has done good work over the past year around early dispute resolution, including a pilot aimed at resolving disputes before they go to a review hearing. This saw resolution rates increase from 14 per cent to 38 per cent at participating branches, and has since been rolled out nationwide.
"It’s also true that the number of reviews of ACC decisions has decreased steadily, from around 10,000 a year in 2010/11 to around 6000 a year now. However, Minister Adams and I confirmed in June that we would still proceed with further consultation on the proposed Accident Compensation Appeal Tribunal.
"Various Government agencies and targeted stakeholders have worked on the discussion paper I’m releasing today. I have also taken more time to consider the report by the advocacy group Acclaim Otago, which was released around the same time as the previous announcement by Minister Adams and I about further consultation around the proposed Tribunal.
"The Acclaim Otago report identified four potential issues affecting dispute resolution for ACC clients - ‘access to the law’, ‘evidence’, ‘being heard’ and ‘representation’.
"After taking the time to consider the report carefully, as well as other work Acclaim Otago has done, I asked MBIE to commission an independent review of the report’s findings on these four issues.
"I have decided that the targeted consultation and independent review will be conducted in parallel, as there could be common ground between the issues at the heart of the targeted stakeholder consultation and Acclaim Otago’s Report.
"The review of issues raised in the Acclaim Otago Report will be carried out by Miriam Dean QC. As a recognised expert in both formal advocacy and alternative dispute resolution, Miriam is very well placed to do this work, and I am pleased that she has agreed to assist in this way.
"I expect the targeted consultation on appeals will be completed by the end of March 2016. In terms of the review undertaken by Miriam Dean, she will do some preliminary work and report back to me within around two weeks on an appropriate timeframe.
"We all want a system for contesting ACC decisions that is fair, robust, timely and cost-effective. It is important to do the work necessary to ensure we have such a system. This is particularly important given that people contesting decisions include some of our most vulnerable New Zealanders still recovering from injuries. I look forward to the feedback and progress that will be made over the coming months."
View Discussion document: Proposed Accident Compensation Appeal Tribunal and Terms of engagement for review of issues raised in Acclaim Otago Report here: http://www.mbie.govt.nz/info-services/employment-skills/legislation-reviews/consultation-proposed-accident-compensation-appeal-tribunal

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