Adam Bennett

Adam is a political reporter for the New Zealand Herald.

ACC backs down on privacy initiative

Digital image / PK Stowers
Digital image / PK Stowers

The ACC has partially backed down on a new privacy initiative adopted in the wake of the Bronwyn Pullar affair but which was criticised as costly and inconvenient for clients.

However the corporation has only relaxed the new rules intended to protect privacy for sensitive claimants - those who have suffered rape or sexual abuse, whose privacy is supposed to be a priority for the corporation.

The recent review of ACC's privacy practices was launched following the Bronwyn Pullar privacy breach and prompted a new policy where claimants were required to collect sensitive documents from ACC offices rather than having them couriered to them.

But claimants such as Napier woman Jacqui Scott said the new policy meant it was now costly to access information held by ACC about her.

"For me, I'm disabled, and live in Napier. It means I have to pay for a taxi over to the Hastings office every time I request documents and need to collect them" she told Hawkes Bay Today recently.

"I'm looking at about $40 to $50 each way, and it could end up costing me about $100 every time."

Clients can choose to receive the information in the form of an encrypted CD couriered to them but that has also been criticised as expensive for those who want hard copies or impractical for those lacking computer skills.

ACC told Hawkes Bay Today the policy was "not a cost-cutting exercise, but a proactive step we've taken to improve the security and protection of client information".

"These changes have been introduced with our clients' best interests in mind, because they reduce the risk of a client's hard copy file ending up in the wrong hands."

But just a few weeks after the new policy was introduced, the Herald this week obtained a recent letter from an ACC manager to a sensitive claimant in which the manager says corporation's Sensitive Claims Unit had sought "further advice from senior management".

"It has been confirmed that ACC are now able to send copy files for sensitive claim clients only, directly to their home address."

A sensitive ACC claimant who did not wish to be named said the new privacy policy and partial back down was "another example of ACC being consistently inconsistent".

"They are making kneejerk reactions without even considering one iota of what claimants require or request or need."

The claimant said the policy requiring claimants collect documents didn't take into account the needs of clients.

"For myself it's a 180km round trip."

The claimant said ACC "should be asking each client which is their preferred method of delivery, simple end of story".

A spokeswoman for ACC said the corporation had opted to continue couriering files to sensitive claims clients, "with special measures taken in the couriering''.

That included a stringent "track and trace'' process and courier follow up.

ACC would also only courier to a verified client's home address, she said.

- APNZ

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