19 Oct 2009

ACC funding for sexual abuse: different or the same?

9:59 pm on 19 October 2009

Victims of sexual abuse held rallies around the country on Monday to protest against proposed changes to ACC-funded counselling.

The protesters say that the new guidelines require victims to be diagnosed as having a mental illness in order to be eligible for help.

But ACC itself says that nothing has changed.

ACC says that it's legally required to concentrate only on those who suffer a diagnosed mental injury as a consequence of sexual abuse.

For those clients, there's no limit to the counselling available.

Ken Clearwater, of the Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse Trust, says a diagnosis of mental illness is inappropriate for many sexual abuse victims.

"We've got a lot of people - men and women - who are not coming forward now because they just don't want to be put through that," he says.

But ACC general manager Denise Cosgrove says the policy hasn't changed, although it may not have been robustly enforced in the past.

She says the criterion for a mental injury has always been that it is more than the expected reaction to trauma and that it impairs a person's everyday ability to function.