The article at page 10 of the 19 April 2017 edition of the Advertiser contains yet another inference by Minister Rau that current Crown claims management is not as competent as that to which is to be given.
In keeping with our previous statements on this matter, SISA will never agree that this is the case. Decades of data show that it is not true, and the advent of the 2014 Act did nothing to change that history.
Let's examine some of the Minister's statements to the Advertiser:
“Public sector employees deserve the same access to effective, hands-on, early intervention and claims management to get them back to work, as private sector employees,” Is the Minister saying that this is not the case now? If so, we can point out that there can be no better and more immediate access to RTW services than when they are delivered full time at the workplace by highly experienced professionals. The model the Government wants to replace it with will be at its very best a part-time presence in the workplace. At worst it will be an occasional presence in the workplace when a resource is available. How can this be 'effective, hands on, early intervention'? The implied insult to the achievements, the skills and the experience of the current practitioners cannot be ignored.
Industrial Relation Minister John Rau said recent reforms to the old Work Cover [sic] scheme had delivered a strongly-performing agency. “We made changes to workers compensation two years ago, with an enhanced focus on better return-to-work outcomes for workers. The scheme has been performing strongly since then". This is a more important point than it seems - the changed legislation is what turned scheme performance around. It says nothing about the performance of its administration, which will be unknown until enough years of performance can show what the actuality is.
“The Government wants to ensure consistency of implementation across its own agencies — the best way to do this is to transfer management of Crown injuries to the government’s expert claims management agency, Return to Work SA". As stated in our previous article, what is the virtue of everything being consistent if the outcomes are not as good? It is a purely bureaucratic objective with no intrinsic value. Are those advising the Minister not able to realise the widely differing needs of emergency services workers compared with administrative workers, medical professionals or any of the other highly varied, sometimes very high-risk occupations represented by public sector agencies? The consistency argument has no substance.
“We believe that high quality return to work services are best provided by a Government owned insurer.” We say that the current public sector arrangements as they have stood for many years have provided much higher quality RTW services and we challenge the Government to disprove that. Its own review report, it seems, says something very different.
Nothing that has been said in defence of this retrograde move has any credibility with those who know this scheme best. SISA will continue to ensure that the facts are in the public arena for comparison with the vague, unsubstantiated statements above and the implied criticism of the existing workforce whose performance we now know was in fact commended by the Bentley Latham Report.
Such is the lack of substance to the case put for this move that it would be easy to conclude that there is a different, undisclosed motive. SISA will, however, stay focused on the facts.