13 Aug 2014

Report criticising ACC 'all too familiar'

6:59 am on 13 August 2014

A Southland woman who complained about ACC's treatment of her case, says a report criticising the agency's ability to deal with complaints is all too familiar.

In a new report released on Tuesday, Auditor-General Lyn Provost says the corporation needs to vastly improve how it deals with complaints and there are significant issues. The report said ACC needs to better equip staff with the skills, knowledge, and tools to handle complaints, including better awareness of claimant's rights.

Most of the front-line staff spoken to on behalf of the Auditor General said they did not feel ACC gave them help to deal with complaints and many relied on peer advice for dealing with them.

After a freak accident in the back yard of her Gore home in 2008, Suzanne Tytler had a hip operation she says left her worse off than before the incident.

She has had four more operations since, and asked for a case review after ACC told her she had 90 days of financial assistance left and needed to find a job.

"They sent me to one of their doctors, who was a GP and not a hip specialist, and I was absolutely shocked when the report came back, saying that I can work 35 hours a week." Ms Tytler said her case with ACC was ongoing.

The Auditor-General's report includes a survey of 242 complainants, which shows only 22 percent of those people were satisfied with how ACC dealt with their complaint.

The report says that in the 2012/13 year, 16 percent of people who had a claim accepted by ACC were dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with their service experience.

In those 12 months, ACC dealt with about 1.3 million people, so the survey findings would equate to about 200,000 people being dissatisfied. However, ACC recorded only 1600 complaints during that time.

ACC has had two previous reviews into how it deals with complaints, the first in 2005 and again in 2008. ACC chief executive Scott Pickering said another review would be held, and he promised this one would be different.

"I'm personally committed to getting this right and I intend to ensure that we carry the full recommendations of this review. I also invite the Auditor General's office back once we have implemented the recommendations to ensure that we are carrying them out to the right standards."

But Accident Compensation Appeal Authority lawyer Hazel Armstrong said she had no confidence in another review.

The report says the board and executive team spend about 3 percent of their time dealing with complaints, and it is that team that should be scrutinised.

Hazel Armstrong said the ACC board clearly doesn't care about complaints.