23 Oct 2014

Call for ACC to restore public trust

8:01 am on 23 October 2014

Advocates for accident claimants say the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) must do more to restore public confidence in the organisation.

The corporation announced a $2.1 billion surplus yesterday and said it is now essentially fully-funded.

The result is a stunning turnaround from several years ago, including a $4.8 billion loss in 2009.

The surplus is mostly due to the organisation's investments, which netted it $1.6 billion this year.

An Auckland lawyer for ACC claimants, Hamish Peart, said it is good news that the organisation is sustainable.

"There's going to be the opportunity to do that [restore trust] because the coffers are full and there won't be the pressure on ACC to always reduce claim numbers or reduce costs."

Mr Peart said public confidence has taken a battering over recent years.

ACC has been dogged by several major privacy breaches, as well as a perception that it was turning down more claims.

Confidence in the organisation rose from 47 percent to 54 percent this year - but Dunedin ACC lawyer Peter Sara was unimpressed with the modest gain.

"That's an appalling statistic.... You have to ask yourself why is it that half the people don't trust ACC?"

He said the solution was straightforward.

"What people want is if they have an accident they can get covered for their accident and get their entitlements quickly, without ACC fighting about it. And so if ACC does that on a consistent basis, then very quickly, public trust and confidence is restored."

Spokesperson for the advocacy group, Acclaim Otago, Denise Powell, said ACC has been trying very hard to improve people's perceptions of it.

"But of course there's been a long history of people feeling that they have been unfairly treated, and it takes a lot to actually turn that around. It's not something that can happen overnight and it has to be consistent."

Ms Powell said she was also still concerned that the Government decided not to drop motorist and employer levies by as much as ACC recommended.

"ACC levies are being used, seemingly, to provide a surplus for the government, whereas in actual fact levies should only be used for providing the service that people are paying levies for."

She said new ACC minister, Nikki Kaye, should take another look at ACC's advice and consider dropping the levies further.

But Ms Kaye said that won't be happening for now.

"The levy reduction for next year has been based on previous projections and it is a Cabinet decision. That is set in stone and what we're focusing on is a long-term funding policy and also that consultation in the out-years [where] we'll look at what further levy reductions could be."

Ms Kaye said the lack of trust in ACC is historic, and there have been some recent improvements.

But she said she'll be listening to claimants and advocates to find out what would restore their confidence in the 40-year-old institution.

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