16 Apr 2014

ACC challenged at United Nations

8:50 am on 16 April 2014

The group behind a successful court ruling against ACC is taking its wider concerns about how the corporation operates to the United Nations.

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Photo: PHOTO NZ

Acclaim Otago, with Law Foundation backing, submitted a shadow report to the UN committee on the Rights of People with a Disability, which is meeting in Geneva this week.

The move comes as ACC is heavily criticised for cutting compensation to claimants who refused to sign a privacy waiver that courts have ruled unlawful.

Acclaim Otago spokesperson Denise Powell was one of the two winners of critical cases on the illegal ACC form this week.

The privacy waiver case is one of 10 possible system breaches of the human rights of people disabled in accidents raised in the group's 120-page report.

Ms Powell said its basic case was that ACC worked well for people with short-term injuries but that there were big problems for people with a long-term disability.

The New Zealand Government had already submitted its self-review of how it met the UN convention but that did not not canvas any of the Acclaim's criticisms, she said.

Report author and advocate Warren Forster said it would be hugely significant for the UN committee to ask the Government some pointed questions about the way ACC functioned, and assess it against the human rights convention for disabled people.

The report highlights privacy but also canvasses many barriers to accessing the justice system for ACC claimants, such as legal aid limits and ACC cases being barred from the Supreme Court.

Mr Forster said another big area was how ACC decided disabled people had been rehabilitated to the point where they could get another job; it had incorrectly assessed injured pilots as being able to work as car park attendants, and cut off their compensation despite them receiving a much-reduced income.

Acclaim's report is backed by most ACC specialist lawyers and advocates in New Zealand, including Dunedin's foremost ACC lawyer, Peter Sara.

Mr Sara said he expected the Government would put its best minds on the job.

"If I was the Government, I would be hugely embarrassed that this important part of our country's affairs was going to be ventilated before the United Nations," he said.

Acclaim Otago said it was increasingly confident the UN committee would announce it was choosing two or three main issues to ask New Zealand about.

A spokesperson for ACC Minister Judith Collins said the minister had no comment.