Adam Bennett

Adam is a political reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

ACC's tougher line fails to satisfy independent reviewers

Green MP Kevin Hague. File photo / Mark Mitchell
Green MP Kevin Hague. File photo / Mark Mitchell

ACC decisions to cut long-term claimants loose from entitlements have been overturned by independent reviews at a higher rate since the corporation adopted a tougher approach to them three years ago, new figures show.

But Prime Minister John Key yesterday backed the corporation's harder stance, saying it should continue and there was no evidence legitimate claimants were missing out.

ACC monitors what it calls its "review uphold rate" - the percentage of formal reviews of ACC decisions that are decided in favour of the corporation - as "an important measure" of the quality of its service.

The rate gives "a key indicator of whether the proportion of ACC's decisions that comply with the legislation has changed".

Its target in recent years has been a 70 per cent success rate at review. Figures provided by the corporation yesterday showed that when it came to long-term claimants on weekly compensation for 2 years or more, it was meeting that target easily in the three years to 2009.

In that time the review uphold rate for claimants managed by the specialist Recover Independence Services (RIS) division was between 73 per cent and 77 per cent.

But the corporation adopted a tougher approach to long-term claims in early 2009. In June 2010, then-ACC Minister Nick Smith and ACC chairman John Judge signed a three-year deal setting out a "priority" that the corporation would get rid of 1150 long-term clients a year. It had 13,157 clients when the service and purchase agreement was signed.

In 2010 the RIS review uphold rate fell to 64 per cent, was 66 per cent last year and just 55 per cent in the 10 months to April this year.

Green Party ACC spokesman Kevin Hague said the review figures showed that ACC's "much more aggressive tone" since the 2010 agreement had led to clinically inappropriate decisions in dealing with clients.

But Mr Key said aiming to move people out of long-term support was the right goal because "it's very expensive and secondly unless it's appropriately applied we'd have too many people on it".

- NZ Herald

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