Earlier this year Karl du Fresne described ACC funding for people recovering from experiencing sexual violence as “subsidising the sexual-abuse counselling industry.”
Mr du Fresne said:
In 1988, ACC accepted 221 claims for sexual abuse or, more precisely, mental illness arising from alleged abuse at a cost of $1.9 million. By 2004, claims were running at an average of 5000 a year and annual costs had risen to more than $27 million.
One claimant got more than $150,000 in backdated compensation and several were being paid more than $60,000 a year in weekly compensation payments based on their earnings before their “injury” was diagnosed.
No doubt many claims were legitimate but 5000 a year? And was compensation for alleged sexual abuse ever envisaged by the architects of the scheme?
Mr du Fresne, like men’s rights organisations in New Zealand, has characterised ACC funding services for sexual abuse survivors as an unstoppable gravy train for both victims and counsellors.
So let’s look at those figures again. It seems Mr du Fresne may not be entirely accurate, according to ACC themselves.
127 new claims in 2007-08, not 5000. 1731 active claims that year.
Quite extraordinary given 3,705 sexual offences were recorded in 2008 in New Zealand, and the Police estimate they record only 10% of sexual violence cases, because most victims do not report. This means only a minority of people who have experienced sexual violence claim anything from ACC.
The cost of the claims last year topped just over $19 million, spread over a number of categories:
Weekly compensation, the bulk of spending in sensitive claims cases, is earnings compensation based on 80% of previous earnings for people unable to work temporarily.
Medical treatment – which is counselling – accounts for a whole $2 million, over the course of a year, for the 1,731 claimants.
Not only is Mr du Fresne mistaken by a factor of nearly 40 about how many claimants the Sensitive Claims Unit has, but this “gravy train” is beginning to look more like a trickle of support.
Which makes the harsher regime at ACC for funding therapy for survivors of sexual violence, due to begin in September, even more difficult to understand.