April 28, 2010

ACC - rejection kills mother of three

Two months ago, Accident Compensation Corporation (ACC) refused to fund 10 initial counselling sessions for a mother of three who'd spent most her life "cutting" to release the pain of her childhood sexual abuse. It took ACC six months to arrive at this decision and within days of having done so, the mother was dead. 

(ACC) Counselling Services Centre manager Emma Castle said the mother-of-three's claim for counselling for sexual abuse she had suffered as a child was rejected on the grounds that she had not suffered "a significant mental injury".

* * * 
Well I'd say it's pretty bloody significant now! Disgusting behavior. We as a nation were in an uproar when a mother died after her Power company turned off her electricity supply due to non payment. She just so happened to be on a very vital piece of medical equipment that maintained her breathing. This is no different - both woman are dead because both were "cut off" from vital life-saving services. Yet the real shame of this is no one will protest for this mother, no one will bother to take legal action, take ACC to Court, and ensure her surviving children get a bit of a break in life. No one. Why? Because the stigma is still there: one woman killed by a company (compensate compensate, compensate). The other is killed by mental illness - shush, say nothing, with any luck, it will just go away! 

In fact, this poor woman would probably have been eligible for funeral assistance and by none other than ACC - funeral grants are much easier to deal with than those pesky counselling sessions that keep bloody clients alive. Oh hang on, my bad - of course, they would have to assess eligibility, to you know, ensure there's no fraud thing going on because it's a little known fact - sexually abused victims go on to commit mammoth multi-million dollar fraud every year. First by asking for funded counselling and then through the sheer audacity of feigning one's own death, Oh please! ACC's lost more through the corrupt dealings of their own staff - how many are being investigated by SFO now ? (Serious Fraud Office). 

So ACC rejected this poor woman's attempt to stay alive. I know it's probably hard for some of you to understand this - maybe she over-reacted to rejection a little. I mean, it's just a letter, right? No, you see, aside from the initial "issues" of childhood sexual abuse, whereby you're constantly traumatized by flashbacks and nightmares (not too dissimilar in nature to war veterans and later, thanks to their efforts, diagnosed as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), this woman also had to raise three children. No doubt, if she's seeking  ACC funded counselling it's because she's on a benefit of some sort, which means she constantly broke and pissed off she can't afford "real food," But wait, there's more! 

She's probably not told a living soul about her childhood abuse and chances are her abuser is still alive - maybe still in the family perhaps. She probably saw some "hopeful" advertisement on television that encouraged her to initially reach out for help. She probably spent six months holding the hand of some female stranger at any one of the many fine agencies out there. Chances are, one of those agencies spent the same amount of time convincing her to seek help. They may have even completed the deliriously inept application forms for her and took some of her suicide calls that came flooding in over the upcoming months. Chances are this woman almost bled to death a few times, probably found by her already traumatised kids. Chances are she attempted suicide after having to constantly ring ACC for an update on her claim and being fogged off - assuming of course she can actually afford a phone. 

At one stage, more than likely to be about three months down the track, she would have probably received a letter asking her to attend a psych assessment. She may see one assessor or maybe three -depends really on... um, dunno, it's a secret squirrel ACC guideline thing. She will never meet this "assessor" beforehand in order to establish any rapport or trust before being asked to delve into the deepest and darkest recesses of her childhood abuse and ... describe it. One, twice, maybe three times and to three separate "individuals." Three separate interviews so they don't all go sharing notes. It's called being impartial. In reality it's costly and causes confusion - especially if they don't all agree. 

Oh don't be silly. Of course, these assessors are paid, all three of them. In fact, ACC will even pay for their flights and accommodation if you know, you just don't happen to live right next to one.  If you need to see three assessors then there's a good chance someone needs to fly somewhere right? It's not too much of a 'hop, skip, or jump' to calculate that some of these assessments cost more than the initial sought after counselling sessions. In any event, they do get paid and they do write copious notes during the session - anything up to two hours. After that, you're send on your merry way - painless really, unless of course you're now consumed by sickening sexual abuse that you can't even remember where you live anymore - bummer.  

Of course she won't know that. She won't also realise these 'assessors' are determining whether she needs help. Maybe one will say yes, the other will not? Maybe they couldn't agree? Didn't agree? She'll have to keep telling herself to "act" nuts so you get help, whatever it takes, but don't overdo it, right? She  won't know any of this, of course. She won't know and they won't tell. 

Three months later when she's wondering what that hell that was all about, she might give ACC a call. She might email. She might start freaking out about whose reading her notes, her file, what's been said about her? That woman in the supermarket, does she work for ACC, does she know? She may leave several messages, perhaps an email, a request for someone to make contact. They don't of course which means, she now has to fight those "childhood  thoughts" from resurfacing. Oh you know, the "You're in visible. You don't matter. You don't deserve to live " thoughts - the very ones that feed suicide and ...let me think ... oh yeah, that's right, the very thoughts she so desperately needed a counsellor to help her with before, you know.... 

Too late.

I don't know if that's what happened. I don't know because I never knew this woman. I'd never spoken to her, wrote to her, nothing. You see, that was ACC's job. To get to know their client. But I bet you this, we all know more about this woman now than they ever did. 

Rest in Peace "Mother-of-three" - rest in peace.

In January and February 2009 ACC approved 472 sensitive claims enabling survivors of sexual abuse to access the counselling services they need. This year however just 32 people nationally have had their cases for counselling approved for the same period.


  1. Unfortunately Jax that story does sound all too familar for most of the sexual abuse claimants at present (though not ending in death). It also seems that even if the Psychiatrists etc that ACC pay for you to go and see DO AGREE you have a 'mental injury' as a direct result of sexual abuse ACC will ALSO reject those claims....so they are consistent there. But seriously WTF??
    But yes, the retramuatising over and over again of survivors is just so terrible, and then to be rejected after that. It's bloody shocking stuff! There is no such thing as Sensitive Claims Units anymore and you can see why so many are not filing claims anymore.... probably their GP's (and the services) are saying the process is very traumatic at present and they don't advise it.

  2. Ah yes, "Sensitive Claims" department, that's right. That's where these files are being shunted off to now. The sad fact of the matter is, if you're one of the "lucky one" who gets accepted for funding, you have the whole "reassessing" ordeal to go through again - once you've completed the 10 sessions that is.

    If it takes 6-8 months on average for a claim to be accepted, as described above, who in their right minds would put themselves through all that again in order to have some continuation of care?

    All this dilly dallying is not about assessing a client's needs. It's about setting up a deterrent.

  3. ACC needs a bomb under it, their behavior is disgusting and it sure makes me shake my head in disbelief at the things they inflict on the people who seek their help.

  4. Welcome Mamarewog.

    Yes, it is indeed s shame what ACC are doing to their "clients." There is an amazing blog called "The Swamp Report" (link is on original posting) where you'll find a lot of people in this blog as as well as some really nice supportive. I hope you're not going through something similar but just in case, so are a lot of other people - they all support each other through the process and if you want/like, email me and I can put you in touch with a few.

    Thanks again for your post.


  5. More worrying... it has been brought to my attention that if a survivor intends on taking her abuser to Court, his lawyer and the Judge DO have the Right to ask for those ACC records.

    In other words, ACC could very well be writing your Court case off - remember folks, you HAVE to have a mental illness to qualify for counselling BUT you are not allowed to be mentally ill for Court!


  6. Ok, it’s important to know that Judges know that it is illegal to discriminate against someone with a mental illness. On saying that, having a mental illness and being mentally ill (for Court etc) are NOT the same things. 'Mentally ill' in that sense refers to someone who (as determined by a Psychiatrist in the days before Court) is too unwell to attend Court. These generally are people in an acute psychotic episode and are currently inpatients under the Mental Health Act. This is not the case for most people who live 24/7 with a Mental Illness. In the same way someone can live with Heart Disease but if they had a Heart Attack and were in hospital they would be too unwell to attend Court and Family Court is then generally deferred for them and for mentally ill people until they are well enough to attend. In the meantime their kids remain with family etc. I hope that makes sense?
    Also, obviously if someone has a severe mental illness and is not accepting of treatment and are needed to be put under a Community Treatment Order then it is likely their kids will be uplifted (at least in the short-term) until their situation improves. That is provided there is no partner or family to step in and fill the gap (which is usually want happens). I have never heard of anyone else losing their kids because of a mental illness unless they were under a Community Treatment Order or there was abuse and/or on-going neglect or drug abuse etc. Having a mental illness does actually works in your favour in one sense as the Courts can’t discriminate against you for that; you can explain your mood and behaviour; and, it is treatable. Whereas, a bad parent (without a mental illness) has NO comeback. On saying all that, mental illness is not an excuse for abuse etc and I would hate to think (as I’m sure the Courts would also) that someone used their mental illness to do that. Such people, will be Judged accordingly regardless of mental illness. If I sound like a 'know-it-all' it's only because I worked for 8 years in Acute Psych.
    Anyway, are you saying you know people who lost their kids soley because of a mental illness or because of the ACC psych reports??

  7. No I do not know of anyone who has had their children because of mental illness. I do, however, know that a woman, on taking her rapists to court, had her ACC records handed over to the defense to "ascertain whether she was fit to testify." Because her records deemed her to be occasionally unstable," this was brought up as a character flaw in her case, citing that perhaps she was just generally "unstable" and therefore, anything she had to say on the case was "unreliable."

  8. God that sounds bloody awful but surely a the Judge would order a Psychiatric Assessment (current) to be done. ACC said I was 'not stable' awhile back too but never explained what that actually meant. When I asked the Psychiatrist what it meant he said it meant my condition was likely to improve and I couldn't be considered 'stable' until I was as well as I could get for a reasonable length of time. I wonder if that is what they meant with her also and ACC took it (as usual) out of context. Oh yip, I am stable now :)

  9. ACC tells me (LOL) that they list clients as having a "mental injury" and therefore, something the client is likely to recover from. On that basis, they say, there ought to be no judgement call if a case goes to court.

    It is apparently different than "mental illness" which, as we all know, has a stigma attached to it.

    ACC do not know of anyone having a case "thrown out" on the basis the client suffered/suffers a mental illness. I'm not too convinced they'd tell me if they did know of such a case in point, but... that's what they said.


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