ACC & Sensitive claims

On Tuesday, the New Zealand Herald ran the story of a woman who died (read committed suicide) four days after being declined counselling assistance by ACC (see the whole article here).  It could be argued that there is no link between these two events, but it’s hard not to draw conclusions.  Having been on the receiving end of insensitive letters and shoddy reports from ACC, I know how easy it is to get that last knock which sets off the final downward spiral.  We’ll never know whether this tragedy could have been averted or not.  People within therapy do commit suicide, so there is a possibility, that even with counselling, this would have happened.  But there will always be that… “What if… ?”  I know her children will always wonder and question…

The reason why her claim had been denied, was that ACC determined that she hadn’t suffered a “significant mental injury” due to sexual abuse.  Yet, the counsellor initiating the claim, clearly stated that she was suicidal because of the abuse.  If you’re wondering how this can happen, ACC look at other factors in your life, to see if the symptoms you are suffering from can be attributed elsewhere.  As an example, I am deemed to have grown up in a “challenging” home environment due to having an alcoholic father (among other factors).  When someone grows up in such an environment, it is statistically expected for them to be impaired in some way, for example, children of alcoholic parents are more likely to suffer from depression.  So it would seem that ACC decided in this woman’s case, that her current issues were not due to the sexual abuse.

As an outsider, it’s easy to cite other resources for help that she could have approached instead of the ACC funded therapy – LifeLine, Mental Health Crisis Teams etc.  But in reality, it’s not always that simple.  Speaking from my experiences, when I’ve reached out to the Crisis Lines, their goal is to talk you through that moment and to suggest options for assistance long term.  Often, those options are under-funded and over-stretched.  As an example, if I wanted to see someone through the Mental Health Team, I’d be looking at a six month waiting period – just to be assessed.  When you’re in that pit of hopelessness, six months may as well be 20 years, it seems like an eternity and beyond hope.  This is the reason why the recent changes to the ACC pathways have been so damaging.  The options for someone who doesn’t receive assistance from ACC are limited and often cost prohibitive.  Not many people can afford the cost of therapy; and as it would be considered a pre-existing condition, no private health insurer would accept coverage.

In the same newspaper article that told of this woman’s death, it was announced that there would be a review of the new ACC pathways.  I hope the reviewers seriously look at the Massey Guidelines – the original work, not the slanted way in which ACC has adopted them.  As Kyle MacDonald pointed out, the way ACC have used the Guidelines, is to pretty much ignore them in favour of Goodyear-Smith, Lobb and Mansell (2005).

I also hope that this woman’s death isn’t used for political gain…  She, like so many others who didn’t make it, deserve some dignity.

Now playing: The Pretenders – Hymn To Her
via FoxyTunes


8 thoughts on “ACC & Sensitive claims

  1. This sounds like a terrible situation. I also hope this woman’s death isn’t exploited. But, sometimes a little “exploitation” and “political gain” can be a good thing. I know that far reaching changes occurred in the UK as a result of the death of one little kid. Obviously those changes didn’t help that little kid, but if they helped other little kids, then it’s better than not helping them, if that makes sense. I hope something good can come of this tragic situation as well.

    • I know that the death of someone can be used to stimulate positive change – the case of Baby P is such a case that comes to mind. In New Zealand, we had the Cartwright Inquiry, which investigated un-ethical medical experiments on women who later developed cervical cancer and died. So, I know that sometimes these tragedies bring about change; but, for some reason I hope this doesn’t happen in this case. Maybe it’s because of my own struggles with suicidal ideation and intent; maybe it’s because it was a suicide; maybe it’s because she left children who will have to learn to live with what has happened… I don’t know. I just hope the independent review comes up with a workable solution.

      Take care,

  2. This is sooooo sad 😦
    I have no doubt, that the decision of the ACC at least has co-caused the death of this woman 😦
    I know it’s wrong what I will write now, but sometimes, sometimes I really wish, that the responsible persons of this rejection would feel – only for a few minutes – the pain, the hurt, the fear and the flashbacks of us survivors. Only for a few minutes…..
    Maybe they would change their decision.
    This world is so wrong 😦

    • It is so wrong. I know that the ACC staff who make these decisions are only following the organisational guidelines. I know they are purely case managers, who aren’t clinicians or counsellors. But, I wish they knew the impact their decisions can have.

      I once got an end of counselling letter from ACC – basically saying that I wasn’t to receive any more assistance. That was enough to drive me over the edge. I can’t afford counselling, I’m currently seeing the new therapist fortnightly because I’m having to pay her full fee until ACC decide whether to fund more sessions or not. I know I’m lucky to be able to afford that. So many others aren’t.

      Take care,

  3. what a great post, castorgirl. i live in the u.s. but this sounds like how things work here too. at least for some people. when you don’t have the money or the “right” insurance. your options are limited. and not just for mental health.

    the system has holes and isn’t the best for everyone. it is so sad that societies have not evolved to the point where they have figured out how to help everyone. instead people slip through and don’t find the help they need.

    and what is also sad, is that sometimes even with help available, even that help isn’t always just what we need.

    i think you’re doing well to know that you have multiple resources available. whatever the community provides. both local and online. reading material. other people. and especially your own self.

    • Thanks Katie…

      In so many ways I’m incredibly lucky. I’m fairly intelligent, educated and know how to find information. If I didn’t have these skills, I know I would never have been able to navigate my way through the mental health system of this country. I can so easily see why many who suffer the after effects of abuse aren’t able to access the help they need.

      I know this situation isn’t unique to New Zealand, and I know that in many ways our system is excellent. I’m incredibly grateful for the assistance I’ve received over the years. But this latest round of changes to ACC have shifted assistance significantly, without having any other infrastructure there to support the fall out.

      Take care,

  4. An excellent article… if anyone can (by the due date June 18th) get a submission in, this is the time to do it. You can do it here:

    I have been subjected to withdrawal from weekly compensation due the “Giltrap Decision” which has affected approx 170 NZ Sensitive Claims clients and on top of that, the assurance from ACC stating that I wouldn’t lose my psychiatrist support and funding for my counselling has also gone out the window.

    At this point, some clients are accessing lawyers and advocates with good results – even being compensated substantial amounts. Some of us are unfortunate to be able to afford that luxury so at this point, you can have your say with the Submission to the Clinical Review or go via the Health and Disability Commisioner. Like most, it’s a huge struggle to be able to put such “essays” together with mental fatigue, etc, but for those that are capable, I beg you to try.

    The more of us that are able to speak up for the rest of us that can’t, the better.

    Much love and respect to you all surviving yet another struggle and from ACC of all people (yeah, people… don’t get me started on the fact that it’s human beings operating a corporation!)

    • Hi Suz,

      I hadn’t heard of the Giltrap Decision, probably because I’m “lucky” enough that my dissociation has so far enabled me to keep working.

      Have you appealed the decision? Have you tried an advocate? My advocate was paid for by ACC to represent me during my Lump Sum/Independence Allowance query. They don’t have the time or resources that a lawyer has, but mine was really good.

      I’d also recommend the SOSA Summit this weekend if you’re able to go – the Clinical Review panel are meant to be attending. I’m not able to go, as my anxiety means I can’t travel to Auckland and be in a crowd (no matter how supportive that crowd may be).

      I feel sorry for those working the coalface within ACC, these are the people having to enforce the decisions made from upper management… I know I’ve called my case manager in a crisis wondering if they were going to keep funding me. I know it must affect case managers who hear of those who have committed suicide because of a decision they’ve had to enforce. I have to believe that these people are human and can one day understand or empathise with the hell we go through, otherwise I don’t think there’s much hope for change.

      Take care,

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