ACC to fund service to help customers navigate processes
ACC will fund a free, independent service to help clients navigate its processes, or to better understand or dispute a decision, Chief Customer Officer Mike Tully announced today.
The service is likely to be a mixture of phone, web-based, and face-to-face advice and support up to, but not during, a formal review hearing.
“ACC’s going through a major transformation to better align ourselves with our clients’ needs. While good progress is being made, we acknowledge some clients still find it hard to get or understand information about their claim, entitlements, or rights,” Mike Tully says.
Making it easier for our clients
“It is stressful being injured, so every time we make a decision about the support or compensation we will provide, we need to make sure our client understands our reasons, or how to dispute that decision if they believe we are wrong. Sometimes they will want to get independent advice, and that is what the navigation service will provide.
“While we are open to the final shape of the navigation service, we have clear expectations around accessibility, especially for Māori, disabled people, and those with language or literacy needs.
Expressions of interest
“The service could be delivered by a single national organisation, or multiple providers covering different regions, or focusing on particular client groups. It should also be able to link clients with other agencies or community groups when we cannot help them.”
Mike Tully says ACC will seek expressions of interest in the navigation service over the next six months, and hopes to have it up and running in the first half of 2019. It is expected to support over 4,000 clients a year – more than four times the number served by the existing ACC-funded advocacy services.
The navigation service responds to a recommendation made by Miriam Dean QC’s review of ACC’s dispute resolution processes.
“As Miriam Dean noted, greater ACC funding of free, high-quality advice may reduce the risk that our clients will turn to poor-performing advocates when they need help.
“The navigation service will work with clients, ourselves, and other parties with the goal of finding an early and effective resolution to the problem. Resolving disputes without going to a formal review will save clients significant time and distress. It will be better for us well.
“Where a client does decide to proceed to review, the support they have had from the service should prepare them to engage effectively in the hearing, and to seek appropriate representation if required.
“The navigation service will give clients a choice in how they want to address issues with us. By empowering clients to engage with ACC in ways that feel safe, appropriate, and aligned with their own culture and values, we feel the concept also reflects and supports other changes we are making to be more customer-centric, and easier to deal with.
“We’re confident the service will be effective and responsive to clients’ needs as it is the result of 18 months of interviews, focus groups and co-design workshops involving clients, advocacy experts, and disability groups,” Mike Tully says.
Background on Dean Review
In 2015, the advocacy group Acclaim Otago released a report about the barriers that some people faced when challenging ACC’s decisions.
In response, the government commissioned Miriam Dean QC to undertake an independent review of Acclaim Otago’s report. The Dean Review recognised the significant improvements that had made to the dispute resolution process, but made a number of recommendations covering five key areas:
- Access to legal resources;
- Access to medical evidence;
- Access to representation (i.e. a lawyer or advocate);
- Confidence in the statutory review process; and,
- Data collection and analysis to better understand the triggers, outcomes, and costs of disputes.
ACC is committed to implementing the recommendations that relate to us, and we believe we are making good progress. As well as funding a new navigation service, we have:
- Set up a working group to address issues associated with access to medical evidence;
- Created a model litigant policy, which our lawyers, including external lawyers, must apply in all litigation;
- Made more information on our processes and decision-making available to clients;
- Funded the Legal Information Institute to update their website to give public access to Court decisions about ACC cases, and to produce an accident compensation law handbook for self-represented litigants; and,
- Improved data collection on reviews.
Work on better collection and analysis of claims data is an on-going part of our wider transformation. We aim to have completed our responses to the Dean Review recommendations by the end of the year.
We are using the term “navigation” instead of “advocacy” to be clear that the service will not represent clients at a formal review. The focus will be on providing people with the right support to resolve issues early, potentially avoiding the need for reviews. Navigation staff will still be able to advocate for their clients’ best interests.