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Feminism, Financial hardship, Mental health, WINZ/IRD

Paid for by us – providing for us?

Jacqui’s Scott’s story about being denied financial and medical support whilst at her most vulnerable has hit a chord with me on many levels.

I do not mean, in any way, to conflate my situation with hers. What is happening for her right now is horrific, far worse than anything I have had to face. What I want to do is draw parallels to show that these circumstances are not as uncommon as we’d like to think.

Jacqui, like me, is a vulnerable woman. She is suffering preventable physical and mental distress that was caused by a) rape, and b) questionable medical practice, or at the very least lack of advice and support.

I am suffering preventable physical and mental distress that was caused by a) abuse, and b) questionable medical practice, lack of advice, and support.

My friend, whose story I told recently, is suffering preventable physical and mental distress because of outright unlawful and hideous medical practice, lack of advice, and support.

ACC is a Crown Organisation and is funded by five tax-payer supported accounts, with each account covering a particular group of injuries. I find it incredibly interesting that one of these accounts – an entire account, out of five – is assigned to covering ‘Treatment Injuries’ (previously called medical misadventure by ACC) – ie, injuries connected with medical treatment.

How often are injuries caused by medical treatment in New Zealand, for our crown organisation to have an entire account dedicated to supporting those who suffer from them?

And how, considering Jacqui’s case clearly shows that her illness is a result of the medical treatment she received, is she not eligible for this support?

Also – shouldn’t the medical system be taking some responsibility? It was their solution, and lack of followup care, that caused this. What do they intend to do about it? (Probably nothing, if my case is anything to go by).

My current disgruntlement with ACC is on a much smaller scale. Because I was self-employed before I got sick, I am expected to pay ACC levies on income earned last year. Because I have a chronic illness not resulting from an accident (though you could describe me being prescribed medication that caused my illness as an accident), I don’t get any support from ACC.

Despite IRD and WINZ both recognising my current financial position, ACC will not. I am expected to pay them $653 within the next month.

This may not seem like a massive amount. But it’s pretty darn big for me.

If government departments and crown organisations worked more collaboratively, some of these situations could be avoided. I don’t understand why, when three organisations (WINZ, IRD, Health) have already recognised I am unwell and have no assets, a fourth will not. It is interesting that, out of these organisations, ACC is the one that will not even consider debt writeoff. They don’t even have a process for me to request it. The best I can do is work out a payment plan, which will take vital money out of my already meagre income.

Despite this, I do want to recognise that they did, in the past, pay for some counselling following my abuse – though I understand most cases get turned down for this sort of support now. And I don’t know how soon it has to be ‘after the fact’ that you can get it. Obviously, it still effects me now, but I’m pretty sure I don’t qualify for help.

My point is: ACC is a service that is paid for by New Zealanders. It should be a service that provides for New Zealanders – especially those that are vulnerable. We should be able to rely on it. 

Instead, we’re relying on the kindness of strangers – so here’s Jacqui’s GiveaLittle page. I can’t afford to donate, but hopefully this awareness helps.

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About writehandedgirl

Sarah is a writer who is passionate about social justice, feminism, politics, and cats. She is a columnist and poet and currently lives in Nelson. You can follow Sarah on Twitter (@writehandedgirl) or read more of her writing at writehanded.org

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