21 Sep 2016

Call for independent watchdog for ACC complaints

10:16 am on 21 September 2016

A woman who fought to make the Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) fairer says independent oversight is needed to make sure the government follows through with changes.

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Photo: ACC

The government has agreed to adopt 20 recommendations from a report released last year to make it easier for people in dispute with ACC.

They included increasing the support costs ACC paid for appeals by 15 percent, expanding free advocacy services and giving courts new powers to help claimants.

Plans for the courts to be replaced by an ACC tribunal will also be shelved for three years, an idea heavily criticised by the legal profession.

It was a victory for a claimant group that has been campaigning for better access to justice for people in dispute with ACC.

The group, Acclaim Otago, issued the report, cataloguing failures in the system.

Head Denise Powell said a commissioner, or other independent watchdog, needed to be set up to ensure people's complaints were heard.

"It needs to be somebody who sits outside of that and is able to do that systemic learning from various cases that come through, people that have issues with disputes.

"In the same way the Health and Disabilities Commissioner works."

Dr Powell said she was happy the government had made the right move in accepting the changes.

"What this really signals is that there's work to be done, behind the scenes in terms of operational policy, possibly some legislative changes.

"This is another step in the journey."

She said the dispute process needed to be as fair as possible, because every claimant was dealing with different injuries and would need to be helped in different ways.

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