12 Aug 2010

Smith says ACC counselling changes not handled well

8:19 pm on 12 August 2010

ACC Minister Nick Smith concedes changes to the handling of counselling for sexual abuse victims were not handled well.

In 2009, the Accident Compensation Corporation introduced tougher guidelines, saying only those victims with a diagnosed mental disorder would qualify for up to 16 hours of counselling.

It has now backed down and will pay for up to 16 hours of counselling for all victims of sexual abuse.

In June, ACC acknowledged many victims of sexual abuse have missed out on help under its latest approach to treatment and that it had moved too quickly to implement the change.

Dr Smith says there are lessons for ACC to learn about consultation with the sector and is not satisfied it handled the issue of counselling services for sensitive claims well.

The minister says he is going to wait for the final report from an independent clinical panel before drawing final conclusions. The report is due in mid-September.

From Monday, 700 people awaiting a decision and anyone with a new claim will be eligible for the counselling.

ACC says it is still working through what the latest changes will mean for those who were declined cover.

Labour Party MP Lynne Pillay says only 180 people had their applications for counselling approved in the past year, while 1500 were declined or put on hold.

Ms Pillay says ACC's backdown is too little, too late.