Peter Ellis web site - Christchurch crèche case

ACC Compensation for Sex Abuse - Index


2004 Index 


The Press
January 26, 2004

Sexual abuse payouts up $9m
by Sean Scanlon

ACC annual payouts to sex abuse claimants have soared by more than than $9 million in the past three years.

Figures released to The Press under the Official Information Act show ACC paid out $27,231,652 to claimants in the year ending last October, compared with $17,951,300 for the same period in 2001.

Critics say the increase shows the rules for "sensitive claims" are not working.

In April 2002 the Government introduced lump sum payments of up to $100,000 for sex abuse claims, prompting predictions from Opposition MPs that costs would rise.

At the time Christchurch law firm Wakefield Associates launched a campaign to attract new ACC clients.

ACC says to date no-one has received a lump sum payment. But many people who sought the big payouts following Wakefield's publicity had got an independence allowance instead.

ACC spokesman Fraser Folster said some of the allowances were backdated, boosting claim payments.

ACC received a total of 17,484 sensitive claims in the past three years, and accepted 14,048. The number of accepted claims dropped from a high of 5272 in the year ending October 2002 to 4017 last year.

The corporation pays for the counselling of sex abuse victims, along with an independence allowance ranging from $10 to $61 a week, paid quarterly.

ACT MP Muriel Newman said the rules governing compensation claims for sex abuse cases were not stringent enough.

"When the Government changed the legislation we warned that they would be opening the floodgates and these figures are consistent with that warning," she said.

"I am aware that there are quite a large number of claims that are in the process of going for the lump sum."

She said there was no significant testing of evidence for sex abuse claims.

The number of claims was exacerbated by ACC's policy of paying out without the victim having to name the abuser or lay any criminal complaint, Newman said.

It should not be ACC's role to compensate victims of crime from the levies it collected.

ACC did disallow claims, but the test for doing so did not seem robust enough, Newman said.

Folster said a claimant was required to visit a general practitioner or counsellor, describing the abuse and mental injury.

ACC then asked the victim to attend a counsellor for up to three more sessions.

The counsellor would provide ACC with a report detailing the crime, the injury and its impacts and also a treatment plan.

Folster said once the "permanency" of any mental or physical injury had been established, it would decide the level of compensation.

ACC-appointed assessors measured injury according to internationally recognised standards, Folster said.

"The corporation's aim is to rehabilitate claimants first, and where that cannot be fully achieved, to then compensate those who retain a level of impairment once treatment has been completed.

"Because the long-term effects of sexual abuse are often a mental rather than physical injury, claimants may improve with treatment over time."

A lump sum payment would only be considered once the claimant's condition had stabilised, Folster said.

ACC Minister Ruth Dyson said Newman had to do her homework about the system.

No lump sum payments had been made and there was nothing to back claims that the "floodgates" had been opened.

She said lump sum compensation was for people who had serious injury with 10 per cent impairment, which was quite high.