ACC tells injured students to “Man up” and “Walk it off”
Academic support for students on ACC is set to change significantly. Spokespeople for the government-run accident compensation scheme have stated that the $6 million budgeted annually for children and young people who require assistance to participate in education could be better targeted to “achieve greater value for money".
Under the old scheme, students with short-term injuries such as broken arms received funding for note-takers, one-on-one tutoring, and alternative assessment and examination arrangements. Under the new scheme, these services will no longer be automatically made available to students with short-term injuries.
ACC defended its decision to the ODT, saying: “Students with less serious injuries and shorter-term needs could generally arrange other appropriate solutions, such as borrowing notes, seeking extra time to complete essays, or applying for a non-exam-based grade." On the other side of the debate, Achieve, the National Post-Secondary Education Disability Network, argues that ACC’s new policy will have detrimental effects on students and “only small savings will be made”.
A string of refusals by ACC for students with non-permanent injuries has been reported in universities across New Zealand. Donna-Rose McKay, head of service at Otago University Disability Information and Support, says that her organisation has “a limited pool of funding available”, and should they lose the funding from ACC for students with temporary or short-term injuries it might not be possible to provide the same level of services. This could lead to injured students withdrawing from or failing papers due to not receiving the learning support they need, and could also have “an impact on their opportunities for entry into competitive entry courses”.
In 2011, 71 University of Otago students were involved with Disability Information and Support after sustaining short-term injuries. 26 of those students applied for ACC funding, and only one application was declined.
Although the new changes essentially free ACC from having to commit to any assistance for students with temporary injuries, ACC has stressed that assistance will be considered on a “case-by-case basis” that will take into account each student’s personal circumstances.
Otago student Ben Loughrey-Webb commented to Critic that the changes will be detrimental for students, and that there should also be concern about the fact that ACC case managers will hold more power. “I think worst of all it means the ACC case managers are freed from doing anything to actually help students. God knows they don't need any more help being difficult.”