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Nick Smith

2 March, 2011

ACC support for Chch earthquake victims

ACC is doing all it can to support the injured and those who have lost loved ones in the Christchurch earthquake, ACC Minister Nick Smith says.

"Our unique no-fault ACC scheme provides certainty of entitlements for the injured and bereaved. These can include emergency care, medical treatment, rehabilitation in New Zealand and lump sum compensation for the significantly injured and funeral and survivor's grants for the spouse and dependents of the deceased – including for visitors to New Zealand. New Zealand workers are also entitled to income compensation,” Dr Smith said.

"A preliminary estimate of the full cost to ACC of claims into the future of the 22 February earthquake is $370 million. This is not an immediate cost to ACC as much of this will be paid in care, rehabilitation, and income compensation that will be required for decades into the future. The estimate needs to be kept in context of ACC having $14 billion in reserves and claims costs each year of more than $3 billion.

"People who are injured or who have suffered the loss of a loved one, can be assured that ACC has significant and sufficient reserves to meet the cost of all entitlements that will need to be funded as a result of this event.

"On Monday the Government agreed to changes specifically for injured workers. Normally the employer would be responsible for the first week of income compensation for a work injury and the employee for a non-work injury. However, due to the earthquake's widespread effects on businesses, employers and employees, Cabinet has decided that ACC will meet the costs of the first week of income compensation for those workers injured in the earthquake who will be on income compensation for more than a week.

"This pragmatic change avoids confusion over whether an injury sustained during lunch was a work or non-work accident. ACC will now pick up a cost that would otherwise fall on businesses and workers who are already under considerable financial pressure. 

"ACC has prepared specific information packs on entitlements for those who are injured or who have suffered the loss of a loved one, which have been translated into other languages and made available to hospitals, government agencies, citizen advice bureaux, as well as embassies.”

For those seeking information, ACC has a toll free calling number 0800 101 996 and website http://www.acc.co.nz/making-a-claim/canterbury-earthquake/index.htm.

"ACC in Christchurch has had its own challenges with premises closed due to damage, computer systems down and staff affected by the earthquake,” Dr Smith said. "ACC's Northwood office re-opened to the public this week but ACC is encouraging claimants in the first instance and who have already seen a treatment provider, such as a GP, to ring its 0800 number as there are staff throughout New Zealand who can help.

"I want to assure those who are injured and the families who have lost loved ones that ACC will provide every support and assistance at this trying time.”

Question and Answers

 

  • What assistance is available to the families who have lost loved ones in the Christchurch earthquake?

Entitlements include:

  1. Funeral grant

Families can receive grants of up $5541.23.

A funeral grant may be used for burial, cremation, and related ceremonies.  It can also cover memorial costs if the deceased's body is not recovered. The funeral grant is available if the deceased was an overseas visitor to New Zealand and the funeral does not need to be in New Zealand. The funeral grant can be used to contribute towards transporting the deceased back to their homeland. 

  1. Survivor's grant

A survivor's grant is one-off payment to the partner, children and other dependents of someone whose death was the result of an accident. The amount payable is $5940.91 for a spouse or partner and $2970.47 for each child under 18 (including an unborn child), or other dependants.

  1. Childcare assistance

Childcare payments can be made to the caregiver of each child, for up to five years or until the child turns 14.

Only children living in New Zealand are eligible for childcare payments. All childcare payments are non-taxable.

Maximum child care payments per week are:
o for one child – $126.33
o for two children – $151.58 ($75.79 for each child)
o for three or more children – $176.86 (divided evenly)

  1. Income compensation

If the person who has died was an earner (paying income tax and ACC levies in New Zealand), weekly compensation payments are paid to the spouse or partner, and dependant children based on a percentage of the deceased's earnings. 

A victim's spouse or partner can receive weekly compensation payments of up to 60% of 80% of their spouse or partner's previous year's earnings. In addition to this, children or other dependants receive up to 20% of 80% of the deceased person's earnings. The total payable to all surviving dependants cannot exceed 80% of the worker's earnings.

Income compensation is payable to the spouse for either five years, or until the youngest child in their care turns 18. It is payable to the children or other dependants until they turn 18, or 21 if they are in full-time study.

  • What ACC assistance is available to people injured in the Christchurch earthquake?

The help ACC can provide includes:

  • Injury treatment costs
  • Prescription medication costs
  • Weekly income compensation for lost earnings
  • Lump sum payments for the seriously injured

Income compensation is available for people working and paying taxes in New Zealand and is determined at 80% of a person's previous earnings and is paid until they are fit to return to work.

Lump sum payments are available to those who have more than 10% impairment and ranges up to a maximum of $123,138 for a tetraplegic.

  • What assistance can ACC provide to overseas visitors?

ACC will cover injury treatment costs and medication costs in New Zealand. It will also pay compensation for lost earnings if overseas visitors have been working and paying taxes in New Zealand and they may also be entitled to lump sum payments. (Also see information above on Funeral and Survivor's grant).

ACC has interpreters available if English is not a first language and if overseas visitors need on-going or follow-up medical care in New Zealand, ACC will work with them and their health professional to ensure they get the support and treatment they need.

The benefit to New Zealand in providing ACC to overseas visitors is that it is the trade off for removing the right to sue. It provides certainty of payment without legal action to visitors and avoids long delays in debate over fault or liability. 

  • What special measures has Cabinet approved to allow extra ACC support for victims of the Christchurch earthquake?

Normally, for work injuries, the first week of income compensation is paid by employers. Workers who are injured outside of work have to wait one week before ACC starts paying them income compensation.

Cabinet has decided that ACC will start paying injured earners income compensation from the date of injury. This avoids any short term difficulties or confusion over whether an injury was a work place accident or not as the earthquake happened when many people were having their lunch break.

Because of this emergency measure, Christchurch employers will not have to make the first week's payment to their workers who were injured at work. ACC will pay it instead.

This provision would be limited to working people injured in the earthquake of 22 February, or the immediate rescue and recovery exercise, who will be on income compensation for more than a week.

  • Nick Smith
  • Earthquake Recovery
  • ACC