Nikki Preston

Nikki Preston is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

Threats to frontline ACC staff on rise

Case managers in the firing line when clients voice frustration over delays in their cases.

Brenda Pilott said the frontline staff bore the brunt of systematic failures and breaches that occured on higher levels. Photo / Supplied
Brenda Pilott said the frontline staff bore the brunt of systematic failures and breaches that occured on higher levels. Photo / Supplied

ACC staff are on the receiving end of a growing number of threats to the organisation, with one client saying his case manager "was lucky he didn't shoot her".

ACC claimants threatened the organisation 300 times in the year ended June 30, 2012 and the union representing ACC staff says the increase appears to have a direct link with the organisation's well-publicised privacy breaches.

Of those, 134 threats were aimed at staff, 67 at the organisation and 33 at providers such as physiotherapists, occupational therapists and doctors. Sixty-six clients threatened self-harm.

Public Service Association national secretary Brenda Pilott said the frontline staff bore the brunt from systematic failures and breaches that occurred at much higher levels.

Ms Pilott said feedback from staff was the the number of threats received had increased and become more aggressive.

"The issue of threats being made against staff is an ongoing concern at agencies such as ACC and it is regularly raised at internal health and safety meetings," she said.

Police investigated a threat in Auckland when a client phoned ACC's call centre after his review hearing and said his case manager "was lucky he didn't shoot her".

Another staffer was at a hearing review in Rotorua when the reviewer had to warn the client about abusive and aggressive behaviour towards them.

So far this fiscal year, there has been only one serious incident when a staff member was assaulted by a client at an Auckland hearing.

ACC declined to give any further information on the assault because it was still being investigated by police.

Labour's spokesman for ACC Andrew Little said the threats were a "hazard of the job" and he knew staff who had left the organisation because of it.

He felt threats could be minimised if ACC provided trauma counselling to clients from the outset and they were given a clear understanding of ACC's role.

However, an ACC spokeswoman said the number of threats received by the organisation each year was small and worked out to about one threat for every 6000 claims.

- NZ Herald

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