ACC’s director of clinical services, Dr Kevin Morris, said last night that the proposal would be modified in response to feedback before it comes into force on September 14.
“Individuals having to disclose to a number of different people – that has always been a problem in this area. We have no intention of trying to make it any worse than it is. We are quite keen to improve that.”
He said the agency also had no intention of removing a client’s right to choose their own therapist.
Good. When you have a united response from therapists who treat people recovering from sexual abuse as well as survivors themselves, it’s hard to say a proposed treatment plan is acceptable.
Yet that is exactly what Minister of Women’s Affairs Pansy Wong claimed in Parliament two days ago, in a series of answers which defended the new ACC framework:
This is tailor-made clinical treatment that takes into account each survivor’s personal circumstances.
But while ACC’s Dr Kevin Morris is backing down from aspects of the new framework, he continues to misleadingly defend it by referring to the Massey Guidelines. Dr Morris is selectively quoting, to put it kindly, and I’ll have more on that later.
Judging from his earlier press release, when he pretended the proposed framework had the support of people working in the field, we need to be careful with what Dr Morris claims.
ACC has been talking to sexual abuse counsellors, psychotherapists, psychiatrists and psychologists about how it can achieve better outcomes for people who have a significant mental injury as a result of sexual abuse or a sexual assault.
The ACC workshops in August outlining the changes took place with a couple of weeks notice, and led to the storm of response, as therapists and agencies who support survivors of sexual violence brought the issue to public attention.
Sean Manning, President-elect of the NZ Association of Psychotherapists:
ACC is in the business of addressing the effects of trauma, but the proposed process where a victim of sexual abuse will have to tell their story to three people before getting help, will actually be damaging. If you want to put people off asking for help, this is a good way to do it. It is a shocking way to deliver a supposedly rehabilitative service.
Adrienne Dale of the NZ Association of Counsellors:
Other than an implied criticism that there are clients who are receiving ‘too much’ counselling we have yet to hear clearly from ACC what it is they believe isn’t working under the current system. Instead we’re seeing a set of changes hurriedly imposed that we predict will impact negatively on clients who are already distressed by experiencing difficulties with getting cover, unreasonable delays and the impacts this has on safe practice.
The latest article, while backing down over the framework, still produces figures basically suggesting ACC is being buried under a deluge of sexual abuse victims claiming support from ACC:
The agency is struggling with a 41 per cent increase in sexual abuse claims in the past few months, with new abuse claims running at 550 a month….
ACC has spent just over $15 million on therapy for sexual abuse victims in each of the last three years and receives about 6000 new claims a year.
According to their own figures, ACC’s new claims for victims of sexual abuse have not topped 256 a year over the last ten years. Last year it was a paltry 127.
Labour’s Lynn Pillay says the ACC backdown is entirely due to media pressure. I’d like to see the media asking some hard questions about those figures from Dr Morris, very soon.