As per yesterday’s article Workcover NSW reforms & cuts being wound back, promising NSW Finance and Services Minister Dominic Perrottet would announce some restorations of benefit cuts to NSW injured workers, here is Perrottet’s media release, as well as well as one from Peter Primrose, NSW Shadow Minister for Finances & Services.
LIBERALS REVERSE SOME OF THEIR CRUEL WORKERS COMPENSATION CUTSMEDIA RELEASE
Peter Primrose MLC
Shadow Minister for Finance & Services
Thursday, 26 June 2014
The NSW Opposition today said the restoration of some limited benefits to injured workers was an admission by the Liberal Government that their harsh changes to the state’s workers compensation scheme were completely unnecessary.
“The Liberals used a temporary deficit in the workers compensation scheme caused by the GFC as an excuse to rip away support for people injured in the workplace – people with amputations, mental health disorders, and nerve and spinal damage,” Shadow Minister for Finance and Services Peter Primrose said.
“By reversing these cuts to benefits for some of those with amputations and those needing hearing aids, the Liberals have admitted they had gone too far and placed these people in needless stress and financial difficulties for no good reason at all.
“PricewaterhouseCoopers confirmed that following the end of the GFC, the scheme would have been on a trajectory to full funding without the cruel cuts the Liberals made in 2012.
“It’s despicable that the Liberals have created a workers compensation scheme which no longer puts the support and rehabilitation of injured workers at its centre.
“This has been a massive cost-shifting exercise – away from employers and insurance companies – and on to injured workers, charities and Federal agencies like Medicare.
“The facts are that the Liberals have made massive cuts to the support provided to injured workers and passed those ‘savings’ on to employers through reductions to employer’s premiums – the priority of a workers compensation scheme must be injured workers.
“When providing medical support and rehabilitation is no longer the primary goal of a workers compensation scheme it’s not hard for it to generate a surplus – but that does mean the scheme is completely useless for helping the people it was designed to support.
“Today’s backflip in the face of strong opposition from the community goes only part of the way to correcting the unfair scheme the Liberals have put in place.
‘The Liberals should restore all the lost benefits, including medical expense cover and journey claims.
“The Liberals have been very proud of their changes to the workers compensation scheme and it has only been the courage of people who have experienced horrific workplace injures coming forward with their stories that have shamed this government into restoring some limited benefits to injured workers.”
MEDIA CONTACT: PETER PRIMROSE 0409 461 778
WORKERS BENEFIT FROM NSW GOVERNMENT’S SOUND FINANCIAL MANAGEMENTMEDIA RELEASE Dominic Perrottet MP
Minister for Finance and Services
Thursday 26 June 2014
NSW Minister for Finance & Services Dominic Perrottet today announced several enhancements to the 2012 Worker’s Compensation Scheme reforms to better support injured workers returning to work.
“The NSW Liberals & Nationals Government has been committed to fixing the Workers Compensation scheme to make it both fair and sustainable,” said Mr Perrottet.
“Labor left the scheme in a mess with a $4.1 billion black hole, businesses facing premium rises of up to 28 per cent and 12,000 jobs at risk.”
“Now that we have pulled the scheme out of Labor’s deficit and returned it to surplus, we are in a position to better support the State’s workers.”
Mr Perrottet said changes to the Scheme would be made by regulation immediately and then completed with legislation in the future.
Five changes would be made by regulation and assist thousands of workers who had claims before 1 October 2012. These include:
- ensuring continued access to hearing aids, prostheses and home and vehicle modifications and related treatment until retirement age;
- extending medical benefits for workers with ‘whole person impairment’ assessed between 21 per cent to 30 per cent, until retirement age;
- workers injured in the 12 months before retirement age will have the same entitlements as those who were injured at or after retirement age;
- ensuring workers continue to be eligible for weekly benefits until a disputed work capacity assessment has been resolved; and
- clarifying the entitlement to a ‘second surgery’ period for workers where the initial surgery requires a second surgery falling outside 12 month medical cap.
Mr Perrottet said the changes will increase Scheme liabilities by about $280 million and can be absorbed by the existing surplus.
“Now that our hands are untied from Labor’s financial mismanagement, we can make meaningful refinements to the Scheme that will better support injured workers.”
“A sustainable scheme has also enabled the NSW Government to increase weekly income support for seriously injured workers by up to 70 per cent over the amount previously paid under the old system.”
Mr Perrottet said a major focus of the government had been to reduce the burden on business to deliver productivity and economic growth for NSW.
“The 2012 reforms have enabled substantial premium reductions of 17.5 per cent in the past year, protecting thousands of jobs and returning over $400 million dollars to the State’s economy,” he said.
“This is money that has been reinvested in creating safe workplaces and new jobs.”
The Minister said he is also asking WorkCover to better align some of its programs to support the objectives of the 2012 reforms.
“Our reforms have already seen NSW go from the lowest return to work rate in the country to the equal highest,” Mr Perrottet said.
“But I have now asked WorkCover to enhance the Return to Work Assist program to better support injured workers with a pre-existing disability, injured workers in regional and rural NSW and those employed by small businesses.”
“The 2012 reforms and these announcements today demonstrate that the NSW Government is meeting its objectives of increasing support for seriously injured workers and better assisting people to return to work.”
MEDIA: Nigel Freitas 0427 464 623
With special thanks to “K” for sharing the 2 media releases with us, greatly appreciated.
Whilst the media is congratulating the NSW Government form winding back some of the most cruel reforms to the WorkCover NSW scheme, we believe that not much or not enough [¹ ] will change in reality. Once fully published, the detail of the changes will need to be inspected in detail, especially the exact wording of said changes.
Here’s an overview of the changes to the WorkCover NSW scheme
- Access to hearing aids, prosthesis and domestic care/modifications until retirement age (before the amendments of 2012 these benefit were provided until no longer needed by the injured worker)
- Reducing the access threshold to ongoing medical benefits to 21% instead of the very harsh 30% (again, note that before the 2012 amendments a threshold was not required)
- Providing up to 12 month weekly expenses for workers injured post retirement age (this still has a cap on medical expenses for 12 months after the weekly expenses finish. Prior to the amendments these benefits were provided until no longer needed by the injured worker)
- Clearing up the work capacity process in part by requiring the workcover insurer to continue to pay the injured worker until appeal rights are terminated (this will thankfully remove the extreme financial hardship of injured workers who had their weekly pay ceased whilst waiting for their work capacity reviews for up to 6 months)
- “Clarifying” the entitlement for a second surgery outside the time limit imposed by the 12 month cap imposed by the June 2012 amendments (we will need to wait on the exact details and wording of this provision as to gauge whether this will include multiple surgeries, for example in the case of prosthetic implants and revisions needed)
Workers’ comp backdown doesn’t go far enough26 June 2014 Unions NSW
Unions to continue campaign for sick and injured workers
The Government has recognised that it went too far when it attacked the rights of sick and injured workers a little over two years ago, today announcing that some benefits would be restored for some injured workers including amputees and those with hearing loss.
Unions NSW Secretary, Mark Lennon said that the Government had now explicitly recognised the unfairness of the changes and should move to fully restore all benefits.
“We have been campaigning against these changes since they were introduced, so it’s heartening to see this limited back down from the Government. Unofrtunately, it doesn’t go nearly far enough,” Mr Lennon said.
“We said all along that the Government was scaremongering about the Workcover deficit and it turns out we were correct.
“Today’s announcement only includes limited reintroduction of benefits for the most seriously injured.. As anyone familiar with workers compensation know, there are many, many more people suffering from injury or illness sustained at work who need assistance.
“It remains the case that the Government is still putting the needs of employer and insurers ahead of sick and injured workers. Our campaign will continue right up until the State election.”
As stated in the Media release, “…it has only been the courage of people who have experienced horrific workplace injures coming forward with their stories that have shamed this government into restoring some limited benefits to injured workers.” We are mighty proud of the hard work of these injured workers, as well as their advocates and supporters including David Shoebridge, Unions NSW (and other unions), and the Injured Workers Support Network.
May the fight continue!
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