Matthew Theunissen

Matthew Theunissen is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Auckland Brain Injury Association slams ACC policy

ACC's practice of paying staff bonuses for getting long-term claimants off their books would have a disproportionate impact on people with brain injuries, the Auckland Brain Injury Association chairman says.

The corporation has come under unrelenting criticism after its battle with Bronwyn Pullar, who herself suffers from an ongoing head injury, and the so-called privacy breach scandal.

The outgoing chairman of the Auckland Brain Injury Association, Morrin Hardy, said if ACC continued to encourage its staff to get long-term claimants off its books there would be more cases like Ms Pullar's.

"This vile practice could be having a profound effect on seriously brain-injured people nationwide as their injury is one of the only injuries that cannot be easily diagnosed in an objective manner - as can most other serious injuries.

"It would be my contention that if a list of all the people who have been removed from the long time claimant list from ACC was compiled the largest number by far would be those unfortunate people who have suffered a traumatic brain injury."

Mr Hardy said he was sympathetic to Ms Pullar and the way her case had been handled.

"She's a brain injured person, and look at all the troubles she's had," he said.

Mr Hardy called for anyone involved in working with people with brain injuries to lobby their local MPs to outlaw the practice at ACC.

ACC said in a statement its National Serious Injury Service works with clients who have a lifelong impairment due to a serious injury, including clients with moderate to severe traumatic brain injuries.

"ACC provides ongoing lifelong support to these clients. As with any client post-injury, our goal with these clients is to help them return as closely as possible to independence and to participate in everyday life.

"A return to some level of paid employment may be part of the broader goal. However, because of the serious nature of the injuries sustained by these clients, ACC's focus is likely to be on helping them achieve a level of employment participation, rather than an expectation of achieving full vocational independence."

Ms Pullar and her friend Michelle Boag, a former National Party president who has supported her throughout the wrangle, hit out at claims by the corporation that Ms Pullar had threatened to use the private information of almost 7000 ACC claimants to help further her own ACC claim.

The information was accidentally emailed to Ms Pullar last August by the corporation.

In a meeting held four months later, ACC staff accused Ms Pullar of trying to use the information as leverage for financial gain.

But Ms Pullar - who attended the meeting with Ms Boag as her support person - made a secret tape recording of the encounter, which showed she had made no such threat.

The long-running dispute has led to the resignations of ACC Minister Nick Smith, ACC chief executive Ralph Stewart and chairman John Judge. It caused a legal stand-off between his successor, Mrs Collins, and Labour MPs Trevor Mallard and Andrew Little.

- APNZ

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