Tess Nichol is an NZME. News Service reporter.

Being a victim is not illness

Law needs to change to help sexual assault victims, says Green MP.
Green Party MP Jan Logie will tomorrow lead a demonstration at ACC's Auckland office. Photo / Supplied
Green Party MP Jan Logie will tomorrow lead a demonstration at ACC's Auckland office. Photo / Supplied

Requirements for sexual attack survivors to be diagnosed with a mental health illness to get ongoing taxpayer funded counselling could be reviewed, ACC Minister Nikki Kaye has revealed.

Green Party MP Jan Logie will tomorrow lead a demonstration at ACC's Auckland office protesting the current process, which requires survivors receive a mental injury diagnosis before their claim for further assistance can be approved.

Up to 14 hours of one-on-one therapy is available when someone lodges a sensitive claim with ACC, along with up to 10 hours of social work support.

Up to 20 hours of whanau support are also available immediately.

After these are used, ACC decides whether to approve cover for further support, should the person need it.

That included victims needing to be diagnosed with a mental health injury relating to the abuse.

"We believe that survivors of sexual abuse should be able to get all the help they need without the requirement of being diagnosed with a mental illness," Logie said.

"The advocates are very clear that it is still acting as a barrier, [that] the consequences are harmful and that it's unhelpful."

Logie said she had been told of survivors who had to retell painful details of their abuse to people they had not previously met so they could get the mental health diagnosis they needed to keep seeing their therapist, a process they described as traumatic and revictimising.

Kaye told the Herald on Sunday she believed the system was supportive of survivors. But the minister said she would meet providers this week to discuss possible changes to the scheme.

That would include looking at different ways to assess mental harm to victims.

"I'm really keen to work with providers and opposition parties to see if there is a better way [of doing things]."

Kaye said a "mental injury diagnosis" could be provided by any ACC registered and appropriately qualified assessor, which in many cases is the client's counsellor.

"If the assessor is someone different, the client's counsellor can be with them throughout the process, including during the assessment to ensure they feel safe and supported, and can provide background information to the assessor beforehand if the client doesn't wish to speak about some things again."

Survivors of sexual abuse should be able to get all the help they need without the requirement of being diagnosed with a mental illness.
Jan Logie

Changes were made in 2009 to the way support was accessed through ACC by sexual violence survivors, bringing in the requirement for a mental injury diagnosis in order to access help.

After a 2010 review of the scheme and consultation with those working in the sector, further changes were made so survivors could have immediate access to support.

Since the review, ACC has been working with providers to improve the care of sexual assault survivors, something Kaye said had been hugely successful.

"We've come a long way [since 2009]," she said. "ACC has given me feedback that a lot of providers have been quite positive about the new service. But that doesn't mean that we can't do better."

- Herald on Sunday

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