Editorial: Lack of ACC adds insult to bite injuries

A woman delivering the Dunedin morning newspaper was attacked by three Irish wolfhounds. Photo / iStock
A woman delivering the Dunedin morning newspaper was attacked by three Irish wolfhounds. Photo / iStock

Six weeks ago, a woman delivering the Dunedin morning newspaper was set upon by three Irish wolfhounds. She suffered injuries to much of her body and needed extensive surgery. This week, it was reported a skin graft had failed to take, so she may require more time in hospital. The mauling left the woman traumatised and sleep-deprived.

Little wonder. Irish wolfhounds are large dogs, though they do not feature in local authority statistics for troubling behaviour. Nonetheless, all dogs can bite and pack behaviour is unpredictable, as the woman on the dawn newspaper run sadly discovered. Having survived the frightening attack, the woman has now found income assistance provided by law through ACC is limited because of her circumstances. The victim is a beneficiary, though she has - or rather had - part-time work.

The delivery job provided limited income, and the state assisted with an abated benefit. Her injuries are such she cannot return to the paper round, and she has been forced to give up another part-time job.

The woman is caught in a situation where her benefit was topped-up by income from the jobs she did. Had she been fully employed, she would have been entitled to 80 per cent of her income from ACC while she was off work. That support would have helped ease her discomfort.

Because her income is limited, it makes economic sense she reverts to her full benefit entitlement as she recovers from her injuries. ACC covers her medical treatment and rehabilitation needs, but does not enter the picture on the income front. Unsurprisingly, the woman has complained she is feeling financially squeezed, and struggling to pay her bills. Any lump sum payment must await an assessment of permanent disability, which for the victim could be some time off, years even.

Social Development Minister Anne Tolley has asked her agency to ensure that the woman was getting everything she was entitled to through the welfare system. It could be that she receives an emergency payment to help meet her commitments - but that may need to be repaid.

For the moment though, the only additional support the victim seems certain to get is cash from a Givealittle appeal. That presently stands at just over $2000. By its nature, the law creates anomalies. Clearly not all dog bite victims are equal.

Had the target of the Dunedin wolfhounds been say a lawyer out for an early morning run, then the corporation would be paying regular cheques into their bank until they were deemed ready to return to work.

The woman was partly in the paid workforce. But her income was not adequate enough to get by without state support, and insufficient for ACC's 80 per cent income threshold to be of any use.

Some years ago, ACC closed a loophole that stopped some criminals injured while offending getting entitlements. But the law did allow the minister discretion in these matters. It seems harsh the law permits compassion in the matter of criminals, but not in the case of a woman torn into as she put the morning paper in a city's letterboxes.

- NZ Herald

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