Hundreds of sensitive ACC claims - those related to rape and other sexual abuse - have been transferred out of the corporation's Sensitive Claims Unit to case managers in regional branch offices, the corporation has said.
Claimant advocacy groups are shocked by the move they say was made without consultation and in some cases without fully informing claimants.
Claims related to rape and sexual abuse are managed by the standalone Wellington based Sensitive Claims Unit (SCU) because of their "highly personal nature", ACC says.
The corporation has been under fire since claimant Bronwyn Pullar revealed a privacy breach in which the ACC sent her a file identifying sensitive claimants. The breach also raised concerns that sensitive claims information was being shared with ACC staff outside the SCU.
But after weeks of rumours that some sensitive claims were being handled outside the unit, ACC claims management general manager Denise Cosgrove said 12 case managers from elsewhere in the corporation had been seconded to the SCU.
"These seconded staff were located throughout New Zealand, near to the approximately 250 clients with long-term sensitive claims they were looking after."
The case managers are in 12 regional offices and had been dealing with sensitive claims since last November.
Ms Cosgrove said all the seconded staff underwent intensive training in sensitive claims management, including training around preserving client privacy.
"In addition, access protocols were agreed for claims and no paper files were transferred," she said.
Ms Cosgrove said care was taken to ensure clients were properly advised of the change.
But ACC claimant advocates Denise Powell, of Acclaim Otago, and Auckland-based Kyle MacDonald, said they only became aware of the move after one claimant learned by accident her new case manager was based in a branch office.
"That was quite upsetting for her."
Ms Powell understood affected claimants were advised they had new case managers, "but ACC didn't necessarily state that their case manager was no longer based in Wellington".
"My understanding was the SCU was set up to be a stand-alone unit and was specifically isolated from the mainstream of ACC in order to ensure the utmost protection of those people's information and identity," she said.
Mr MacDonald, who is a member of the Sensitive Claims Advisory Group, which ACC regularly meets with, said the corporation never raised the change with his organisation. "The reality is 250 claimants are now being managed outside of the Sensitive Claims Unit in regional branches by case managers who are not sensitive claims specialists."