18 Apr 2019

Mosque shooting widow feels let down by ACC

From Checkpoint, 5:23 pm on 18 April 2019

A woman who lost her husband and eldest son in the Christchurch mosque shootings is battling ACC so she can keep a roof over her childrens heads.

Naeem and Talha Rashid were killed in the Al Noor mosque, two of the 50 people who died in the Christchurch terror shooting last month.

ACC pays out 80 percent of a deceased person's earnings to their family.

But when Ambreen Naeem applied to ACC, she was told they would only look at her husband's part time salary, not the income her eldest son was bringing in to support the family as its main bread winner.

She said this would leave her with a major shortfall and make it hard for her to continue paying her mortgage.

A one-off payment from Victim Support had been enough to tide her over for now but was quickly running out.

"I just tell myself to be calm and patient, that's all I'm doing to keep hope. I  think [most] people would not be as patient as me, they would be frustrated."

She said she was trying to stay strong for the sake of her surviving children, 19-year-old Abdullah, and five-year-old Ayaan.

"I have to show my strength to them so that they [can] cope with this and come back to life."

Ambreen Naeem's case is not an isolated one.

Her sister, Naema Nadeem Khan, was helping several widows in a similar situation.

"Mostly the ladies were depending on their husbands or on their sons, so it's a huge loss, emotionally, mentally and obviously financially."

These widows were not only having to begin the long, hard process of rebuilding their lives, but having to help their children deal with being bullied.

"There were a few children who came across with some really nasty comments, 'that you just got what you deserved because you are Muslim terrorists'.

"I can't actually imagine what the Mum is going through. Some of the children have lost their brothers, their Dads and they are injured."
Naema Nadeem Khan wants ACC to change its approach and recognise that there are big cultural differences with how Pakistani families operate that it may not be familiar with.

She wants them to pay out on the basis of the income the family has been relying on, even if this comes from the eldest son.

"They have to deal with everyone as an individual and go case by case. ACC has a big responsibility on their shoulders."

On Thursday there was some good news.

Ambreen Naeem was told by Victim Support it would be paying another $15,000 into her bank account out of the millions that had been donated to the organisation.

Short term relief for now, but not enough to set her mind at ease as far as the family's long term future was concerned.

In a statement, ACC said it recognised this was "an unprecedented and complex situation for many families."

It said weekly compensation was "available to a spouse or partner of the deceased, eg if the couple were married, in a civil union, or in a de facto relationship."

It encouraged those who had questions or were confused about anything ACC-related to get in contact as soon as possible.