Victims of sexual assault left waiting for months to access ACC counselling

Imogen Wells
Source: 1News

Victims of sexual assault are facing months-long wait times to access counselling via ACC sensitive claims.

In half of the country’s regions it’s taking longer than two months for people to secure an appointment.

Victims of sexual violence can claim therapy sessions via the Government ACC for their mental trauma suffered.

However, the organisation’s own data reveals in places like Wellington, Bay of Plenty, and Taranaki, it could be more than eight weeks before an appointment is available.

The waiting lists in Tasman, Marlborough, or Manawatū-Wanganui are soaring to more than 12 weeks.

Survivor Mia McIvor was sexually abused at a young age and reached out help for her mental trauma through the Government body.

She told 1 NEWS ACC and other counselling providers said there was no space for when she tried to access funded support once she had her claim approved.

“To be told that you're going to have a three month wait after you've gathered that courage yourself... that's a huge thing.

“It’s taken me my whole life to get to this point, and I got told “sorry it’s not an issue for us, we don’t have space for you”.

Gisborne was the only place in New Zealand where suppliers reported a less than one week wait time for patients.

ACC told 1 NEWS it’s a real challenge getting people the support when they need it and that it is working with service providers to try speed the process up.

“We want everyone to access the support they need and as soon as they can, seeing those wait times come down is absolutely our goal,” said chief customer officer Emma Powell.

Green Party ACC spokesperson, Jan Logie, says victims deserve better, also raising the issue of lengthy time it takes to have a sensitive claim processed.

It can often take weeks of assessments before the claims process is complete, then victims must wait to hear if it’s been accepted or not.

“Just the practice of forcing somebody who's reaching out for help to have to sit down, and often with a stranger, for hours, going over the trauma of their life is not therapeutic.

"There is no therapeutic value in that, in fact it often sets people kind of healing back,”  Logie said.

McIvor told 1 NEWS she found the assessment process like an exam.

“I felt I had to prove why I deserved it [therapy cover]. It was very hard.”

Stressed young woman in the bedroom.

1 NEWS had previously spoken to another victim of sexual violence who said the ACC process made him “want to give up so many times”.

The Green Party is calling for a review of the sensitive claims process, Logie is questioning the need for claimants to be assessed.

“What we need to do is that when people reach out for help, we believe them and we get them the support they need.”

Earlier this week an ACC report obtained by RNZ revealed women are less likely to have their ACC claim accepted than men.

More women than men also apply for sensitive claims.

ACC told 1 NEWS it was still reviewing the data and that it is not yet definitive.

“The information we have started to look at is very, very surface level at this stage. We are needing to understand a lot more,” Powell said.

Additional reporting by Oliver Cowan.