I am an ACC Sensitive Claimant. That means ACC, a government department, partially funds my therapy costs. It also means that Allison has to regularly report on my progress, and sends requests for more funding.
When I first claimed for assistance under the ACC scheme, I was assured that the information provided to ACC would be kept confidential. That the information didn’t go outside of the Sensitive Claims unit, and that only those people directly involved in my case, would access my file.
I struggle with trust issues, so needed this reassurance.
Those of you who have read my blog for any length of time, will be aware of the struggles that I have had with ACC. They have mislaid emails that I’ve sent them – emails containing incredibly sensitive information. They have sent me incorrect letters – one told me that my therapy support was being stopped, when it wasn’t. They regularly change my case manager without letting Allison, or I, know. There was a long struggle over my level of impairment. What all of this has meant, is that my faith in ACCs ability to carry out their role, is pretty minimal. I dread the reports for further funding that Allison has to do, as it usually means that I will be sent to yet another stranger for an assessment…
Despite the significant drawbacks associated with ACC, it is the only way that I can afford therapy. This means, that it is the only way that I have been able to maintain a job, and keep being a (productive?) member of society. It would be questionable as to whether I would still be here if it wasn’t for this assistance. That may sound overly dramatic, but it’s possibly closer to the truth than I would care to admit.
So, I am thankful for the assistance I get; but, am also incredibly wary of the strings that are attached to that assistance.
A couple of weeks ago, those strings became entangled beyond recognition. It came to light that ACC had sent the details of about 9000 clients, including those of some sensitive claimants, to an ACC client. Yes, a fellow ACC client… not any sort of health professional, but a member of the public.
Before this incident, I knew of one other incident where a fellow claimants file had been sent to people unrelated to her case. So, this sort of breach doesn’t seem to be a one off error.
Since this incident became public:
- there have been reports that health professionals have received incorrect client files from ACC, and that some ACC claimants have received numerous letters apologising for breaches in privacy;
- ACC have responded by trying to contact those affected, establishing a privacy team, and apologising;
- the claimant who was mistakenly sent the file has been “outed“, accused of bribery, tried to explain the reasoning behind her actions, and apologised to a member of parliament;
- Nick Smith has been accused of using inappropriate judgement, and has resigned from his cabinet portfolios; and
- the media has revelled in the latest scandal, jumping from one juicy detail to the next.
While I can understand the chain of events, much of it seems to detract from some of the core issues that this incident has raised…
- Why was there a document with ACC Sensitive Claims Unit client information on it, being circulated to anyone outside of the unit?
- What is the purpose of such a document to begin with? The cynical part of me wonders if it’s about highlighting “problem” claimants, or pitting the units against each other.
- How could the document be sent without basic security, such as password protection?
- How often does this sort of breach happen?
- What is being done to tighten privacy and security within ACC?
- Why didn’t ACC act sooner on this breach?
But, the most important question for me, is…
- Why should I ever trust ACC again?
ACC has files which contain some of my darkest, most shameful secrets. How can I trust that the information won’t accidentally end up on the doorstep, in an email, or faxed; to someone who has nothing to do with my case? I can’t. ACC have proven that they cannot be trusted.
So, where does that leave me? To be honest, I’m not sure. As my ability to see Allison is dependant on ACC funding, and she must report any new information about my abuse, and it’s effects on me; she has been placed in a precarious position… I’m meant to be open and honest with her, yet if I am, that information will potentially go back to ACC. How can I be open with Allison if she is reporting to an organisation that has proven to be untrustworthy?
There have been lots of stories about the privacy breach within the media, and many have waved the “isn’t it awful that sensitive claimant information was included” flag… but, what they don’t seem to grasp, is the devastation that this has on an already vulnerable group of people. As sensitive claimants, our trust has already been violated in one of the most horrific ways possible, and to have that again shaken by the organisation that is meant to help, is destabilising.
I know ACC cannot be perfect, but they need to be responsible and accountable.