Why did it take the UN for ACC to do the right thing for people with disability?


This week saw a massive step forward for ACC clients who had previously seen their payments, and therefore their income cut for no real reason. Thanks to a United Nations committee bringing ACC to question about the matter, people with disabilities through accidents are finally having their voices heard about their inability to do just that previously. Warren Forster from the Injury support group Acclaim Otago said, “Finally, we have an international body saying to the New Zealand Government, ‘There’s an issue here and we’d like you to address this’. That is the first time that this has ever been done.”

To me this shows progress and it is always a good thing when people have their human right to have a voice back. While it is excellent that ACC clients can express their concerns about adequate funding as well as other disability related issues, there is another group of people who still have a long way to go in receiving adequate funding with minimal hassle. I hate to be the one to cast a dark shadow over a victory, but I’m going to anyway.

People with born disabilities, who go through the Ministry of Health, do not receive funding as quickly and as easily as people who have a disability as a result of an accident. I was born with a disability that didn’t show its symptoms until I was 11 years old. I remember having to wait an awful long time to receive any compensation for housing modifications, which also included a lengthy and painstaking paperwork process. Meanwhile, my day-to-day functioning was becoming increasingly difficult. This was happening as the person who suffered a horrific accident received everything they needed at the drop of a hat.

While I was obviously happy for them, I wondered why the processes were so different. However the disability occurred, the final situation is still the same and that should be all that is considered. Both groups of people still need extra assistance, regardless of what they are.

However, if there is anything that I want to make clear, it is that the fault is not with the people who work for these funding organisations. They are merely working within an already existing system that is flawed in itself. I remember my case-workers expressing their own disagreements with the way things are run.

Like I said, I am incredibly happy that the issue with the ACC has turned to favour the clients. As a proud New Zealander who believes in equal opportunity, I do hope these battles for acknowledgement continue to be won.


  1. The issues that disabled are facing in New Zealand, and that does of course include the ones that suffered accidents with resulting disabilities, who have to claim ACC, have sadly been neglected by too many politicians, the institutions in general, and especially the business and employer organisations. The media has sadly not helped, giving disability issues only marginal attention.

    While there must be some credit given to the former last Labour governments, who at least made an attempt to improve the rights and services for disabled, and who signed the UN convention for the rights of disabled persons, this present government is having an appalling record, simply ignoring the concerns of disabled in too many areas.

    It took the hard work and dedication of people involved with and being members of ACCLAIM Otago, and some others, to prepare the report that was sent to the UN. It was not done by the medical profession, by any political party or any other main lobby group in this country.

    Now at least the UN is casting some spot-light onto the situation here.

    What is worth looking at is the report by ACCLAIM Otago themselves:

    Their focus is of course primarily on the problems that ACC claimants have and are still facing in too large numbers, in having their rights met while claims are being handled and administered. Too many were denied rights, faced challenges to their health and disability conditions that resulted from injuries, and in some cases faced endless legal battles with the Corporation (ACC). But there are of course wider issues, which get a fair mention.

    Worth a study is also a submission report that Hazel Armstrong provided to the Welfare Working Group in 2010:

    ‘Vocational Independence: outcomes for ACC claimants’ –
    “A follow up study of 160 claimants who have been deemed vocationally independent by ACC and case law analysis of the vocational independence process.”, Wellington, Feb. 2007:

    There has been a change in the approach that ACC took towards claimants, and it basically preceded a similar approach now taken by MSD and WiNZ. They have adopted the “teachings” and supposed “evidence based” research findings from the UK, mainly the ‘Centre for for Psychosocial and Disability Research’ at Cardiff University in Wales, headed by one Professor Mansel Aylward and some colleagues.

    On the surface some of what they claim and propagate seems rational and constructive, but a closer look betrays the purpose as being an agenda to cut back and deny rights and honest, fair support for injured, disabled and sick. See details here:

    Welfare reforms in New Zealand now being implemented by WINZ are aiming at reducing welfare numbers, and while there is talk about “support”, “help” and “enabling” disabled and sick, the reality is often far from it:

    In the medical area we do since July last year now get this approach:
    “Welfare now has health warning”, New Zealand Herald, Simon Collins, 16 July 2013

    See some more background and current info re all this:

    The new mantra (already followed since Future Focus was introduced in 2010) is all about “we will look at what people can do, rather than what they cannot do”, and “work is beneficial for people’s health”. That again may sound good in a way, but when looking at what Aylward, WINZ Principal Health Advisor Dr Bratt and some others stand for, it gets a totally different tone. Bratt likens welfare dependence to “drug dependence”:
    (see pages 13, 20, 21 and 35 for some bizarre comments in this presentation he gave to GPs and GP trainers!)

    The whole agenda to dis-entitle sick and disabled from financial support comes from the UK, and has been introduced into Australia and New Zealand by the same persons who strongly promoted the same ideas in the UK (first and foremost Aylward). The President Elect of the AFOEM (Australasian Faculty of Occupational and Environmental Medicine) happens to be a Dr David Beaumont, who worked for ATOS in the UK, who served as advisor to ACC and MSD and who invited Aylward to introduce his teachings here:


    Also of relevance:

    The Position Statement by the AFOEM on the health benefits of work is now like a guide to the medical profession here in NZ:

    One main advocate for all this is former ATOS staff member Beaumont:

    So what we have here in New Zealand is an agenda to keep rights of disabled and sick limited, restricted, and instead have increasing pressures and expectations put on them, to make efforts to get jobs on the open market. There is little evidence of extra medical and rehabilitational expenditure, but millions more for WINZ case managers, applying the new intense case management approach at the coal face.

    We also have the medical and health professional organisations hijacked by ones who serve loyally to meet the interests of insurance companies and governments, who ultimately want to save costs, which comes before offering true support to the affected. It is a disgrace and deserves utmost scrutiny and opposition what is going on here!

  2. Great article and comments here.

    I remember back when ACC was first designed:

    It was designed to stop injured people being able to sue.

    1: Because lots of employees of small NZ businesses were going under financially when an employee sued them for the damages of their injuries.

    2: Some injured employees never got to receive any compensation from their employer, due to the employer filing for bankruptsy rather than pay out…

    3:…now this situation left the working population, who had a lifestyle commensurate with their income, trying to live on the sickness or invalids benefits. Which of course doesn’t work, and eventually they would (in many cases) have to go bankrupt themselves – after losing everything they had worked for in the first place – before they were injured.

    It was all designed as a matter of ‘fairness’ to the worker, and the employer.

    ACC has over the years become far removed from its’ original purpose, and is in fact now an insurance company, that all NZers contribute to.

    I personally find it very sad that people who are born with disabilities also have to struggle (with WINZ). It is an assault on people with disabilities.
    Neither the worker who is entitled to 80% of their former working income, nor the person who is born with, or develops a natural disability, (and is entitled to disability income) deserves to be treated the way that government entities treat them – the disrespect, the humiliation, the harassment by the bureaucrats, lies, extremely poor record-keeping, and the list just goes on and on.

    People with disabilities that are not caused by accident or acts of crime, no matter how they are right now, need to remember that they could have an injury at any moment, and they too will be entitled to assistance from ACC – if they can survive the rigors of their processes.

    You see, we pay ACC levies (on just about everything we touch) as income and health insurance against injuries; and we pay general taxes for all other health related matters that arise throughout our lives, including the need for income assistance from WINZ.

    Also, everyone has the ability to sign up for private health insurance for themselves and their family. How do you afford this? How don’t you afford this? Really I think it needs to be a part of every household budget – just like the rent. But it needs to be done before you get injured or sick, and it must be much much cheaper.

    The people running the show have lost touch with reality, and seem to think it’s okay to pick on those of us with disabilities, while they play their corporate bureaucrat games with our disabled lives. They pretty much are, the bullies in the playground.

    This is my opinion and belief, and I do care about people with disabilities. It’s a hard road, when it should be a far easier road, with much respect for your disabilities.

  3. This is how disabled and their caring relatives are treated in New Zealand:

    “Bureaucratic hurdles mean few parents get paid to care for disabled children”, Simon Collins, NZ Herald, 19 April 2014:

    “A 13-year legal battle by parents seeking the right to be paid caregivers for their disabled adult children has ended in bitterness, with only a handful of parents being paid.

    The Ministry of Health says only 121 people had qualified for the new “funded family care” by April 14 and only 97 families were actually receiving it – a fraction of the 1600 who were estimated to be eligible when the scheme was announced last year.

    The scheme pays parents or other family members the minimum wage of $14.25 an hour for the number of hours that their adult disabled family members are assessed as needing paid care, up to 40 hours a week for each caregiver.

    But many families have been put off by the system, which requires the disabled people to become their parents’ employers, responsible for paying tax, ACC levies, KiwiSaver, annual leave and sick leave.

    The disabled people are required to set up bank accounts, which some banks do not allow for people who are not intellectually competent.”

    “Moreover, some parents who have joined the scheme have ended up hardly any better off because their welfare benefits have been cut, and any paid caregivers who were coming into the house have had their hours cut when the parents started getting paid.

    Unlike a benefit, funded family care also stops when the disabled person goes into hospital – a frequent event for many families.”

    “Two other complainants have died since the legal case started.

    Another is going through the application process, one has been told she is not eligible, and the seventh, North Shore pensioner Jean Burnett, 79, has not applied.

    “We have gone through all this and I think we have come out absolutely burnt and very unhappy,” said Mrs Burnett.”

    So New Zealand upholds “human rights”? New Zealand signed the UN convention on the rights of disabled persons???

    Add insult to injury, and I have seen so much of it happen to the weak and suffering in this country. We have also a so-called Health and Disability Commissioner, who is mostly doing nothing, but “advising” or “recommending” or slapping a wet bus ticket on the wrists of wrongdoers in the medical and health professions.

    It is a disgrace what goes on, and it is beyond me that so few do not raise their voices louder and shout out the injustices they suffer.


    HDC and other Commissioner Offices are nothing but fake facades, as they are not there for the purposes they claim they are, they are there simply to keep people and cases away from the courts, and to save the state money, none else! And they even rather protect the practitioners than the affected patients!

    • Marc, please don’t be surprised that people don’t stand up. So often it is a solitary silhouette against the skyline. Easy target. Look at what the Leopard Spots person did to two beneficiaries who spoke out – a public slagging.

      So often the disabled person is on their own, no strong support group. If the benefit is stopped or changed to, say, a job seekers allowance the old ‘skimp and save’ becomes do without, go without.

      If it goes on for too long then the disability is compounded by such delights as malnutrition, additional stress-related complaints and the limited world closing in to a very grey sort of existence.

      There is no way anyone is going to risk that loss while there’s still a glimmer of hope they can avoid the Righteous Ones at WINZ and their enablers. Employment at a living rate is rarely an option for escape.

      I love it that you speak out, Marc. And I have no means whereby to take the fight further, though I wish I could. Down. Still twitching – and that’s about it.

      Thanks. I know you’re speaking the truth.

      • ANDREA – I know the difficult situations that many affected are in, and yes, most will not have the strength, power and courage to speak out louder, and risk being punished by the hand that “feeds” them morsels.

        What makes me so angry is the wide indifference, or lack of sympathy in some cases, that is found amongst too large parts of the public. Surely, people must have a remnant of a conscience, to take a stand, and to not let this all happen. It could start with casting a vote against this government.

        So I can only hope that some heed the call for action, that is within the wider public, to stand up for the weakest and most vulnerable in society, because one day they may be in the same situation, and have little help left.

  4. Greetings People, and thank you Latifa for giving the can another kick down the road!

    “…don’t be surprised that people don’t stand up. So often it is a solitary silhouette against the skyline. Easy target. Look at what the Leopard Spots person did to two beneficiaries who spoke out – a public slagging. -”

    Oh yes…stick your head above the ramparts and you are likely to get shot down…or your already minimal disability supports slashed.

    This is the climate within the disability/carer sector here in NZ. People with significant disabilities and their families too damn scared of the Powers That Be to speak out about issues that affect us all.

    And the result? Isolation and loneliness and a feeling of complete marginalisation.

    So you approach one of the organisation purporting to support us, only to find that steel toe cap booted advocacy has been replaced by CEOs having ‘conversations’ with their government paymasters.

    Just take a look at the names that keep popping up over and over again on this consumer group or that forum….all have some $$$ connection with the enemy of us all…the Government.

    I could put up links to research Grey/Sedgewick “Fears Constraints and Contracts”….but I’m too cross and too cyber challenged.

    Calming down….deep, cleansing breaths here!

    Money is what it is all about….and the to the death battle for various organisations and companies to keep their snouts in the trough.

    Governments are spending squillions on the underclasses, but those $$$ are not going to the actual people who need a hand up but to various businesses contracted to the governments to ‘help’ us poor unfortunates…because for goodness sakes we are so stupid we have no idea of what is needed in the way of assistance.

    These companies do not actually have to prove they are meeting the terms of their contracts…which one would think would involve achieving results. In the case of disability care in NZ…these contracted service providers can neglect, abuse and even cause the deaths of disabled people…and never be held to account…much less have their contracts cancelled.

    insert any number of media reports here.

    With the Family Carers Case…I believe the resulting amendment to the PHDAct and the Funded Family Care (see our infant fb page!) policy has been more about protecting the income stream of these contracted disabilty support providers…even in the face of them failing to inspire confidence in their services…than “developing a non-discriminatory (and fiscally sustainable) mechanism for allowing payment to family carers.

    I could rave on about various pieces of research comparing outcomes for those on ACC with those on MOH for similar impairments…but I’ll save that for another day.

    I am the unpaid fulltime carer of my partner, a pre ACC high tetraplegic. No Funded Family Care for us, ever…but we knew that six months before the PHDAct amendment. We have nothing to lose….the Ministry of Health have done their worst to us. WINZ could make life difficult I suppose…but we’ll just sell our home sooner and die in penury.

    But we won’t die quietly.

  5. Hello, my name is Paul Riddler, i am a TBI survivor, i was a vicitim of crime, home invasion, 1991.

    I was initially on ACC, then i was dumped, i recieved no rehabilitation, no lump sum, i ended up on a sickness benifit,and sleeping rough on the streets.

    There is a cost to the human an civil rights abuses that ACC inflict upon already sick and injuried New Zealand citizens.

    I am now my severly disabled partners principle carer, she had a stroke, October 2012.
    I have been trying to seek accountability for a serious systemic complaint, i have been subjected to horrendous wrongdoing just for standing up for my rights, HRA, CRPD, Bora.

    Most recently my partner has been bullied by the MSD ministry for social development, she has had her supported living benifit reduced, and what i believe more serious,is that my partners 83 year old grandfather has had his super reduced also, he resides at my partners house so that he can help me care for her.

    We are vulnerable people, there is no concideration for our disabilities or age.

    I can prove that my serious complaint has been negligently covered-up.

    The nationwide health and disability advocacy service ,complaints mechanism is part of a system connected to ACC.

    Question how many ACC claimants end up filing comaints with the HDC, and have there complaints concealed by HDC legislation, decide to “take no further action”

    Please read this link,i have made OIA requests. http://tinyurl.com/lh8why2

    Paul Riddler TBI underdog

  6. Hello, most recently the Human rights commissioner has denied the existance of certain documents that prove that my Nationwide health and disability advocacy service,advocate colluded with another party to corrupt a primary legal health and disability complaints mechanism.

    The Newzealand Ombudsmens office also has copies, submitted September 2013.
    The OHRP ,office of human rights proceedings recieved copies also. September/November 2013.

    I have requested this information under the Official Information act, the OHRP, are bound by law to supply the requested information.

    Paul Riddler TBI underdog.

Comments are closed.