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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Advocacy help in dealing with EQC, insurance companies and councils - Part 2

In the previous post it was mentioned that CanCERN are suggesting an independent advocacy service as the best approach to handling issues and obstacles that arise for claimants when dealing with EQC and insurance companies. EQC's chief executive Ian Simpson, and Christchurch city mayor Bob Parker, oppose the idea.

CanCERN have identified a significant omission from the overall process as it stands, a mechanism for resolving problems where the major players form part of that problem. As events unfold some claimants are finding themselves increasingly in the role of "victim" through the decisions, indecision, actions or inaction of others more powerful and better resourced than themselves. On their own they invariably do not have the expertise, resources, or energy to bring the problem to a successful resolution.

Over time the number of people in this situation will increase to a significant size ( e.g. if there were a 0.5% or 1 in 200  problem rate that would equate to over 800 cases). In each case the claimant(s) concerned will find themselves faced with trying to deal with one or more extremely large organisation that don't seem able to coordinate with each other, or even operate with a high degree of internal coordination. In addition, large organisations are inherently hierarchical, with decision-makers out of reach of the client/customer/public, and go-betweens of varying levels of experience, knowledge, and ability keeping outsiders at a distance.

The current state of affairs will be convenient for EQC, insurance companies, and councils as it is an effective and efficient situation, allowing for quick progress to be made. A significant impediment to this progress would be the involvement of individuals and groups objecting to specific incidences of process, re-litigating decisions, or raising issues of transparency and  accountability. Each act of advocacy would tie up resources, cause delays and increase costs.

On the one hand we have what seems to be a drive for rapid and unimpeded progress and, on the other, a desire to ensure the needs of individuals are attended to, that each person receives due process, and those who cannot fend for themselves have others to advocate for them.

We need to be careful about where we end up on this. A "never mind the quality, see how much we've done" approach is not appropriate. Individuals in difficult situations should not be sacrificed to some large corporate goals euphemistically called efficiency and progress.

As it happens the EQC is the least of our worries. It is governed by different rules and imperatives than those of the insurance industry, and managed in a way that intends to provide fairness. They may be struggling but their intentions are of a public service nature.

Insurance companies are quite different. They are a commercial entity, exist to make a profit, and are under less obligation to provide transparency and accountability. One way of improving profitability is to reduce costs. Thus they have the greatest of incentives to pursue efficiency and progress while avoiding anything that might increase costs. Something to fear about them is that, to achieve this end, they may emulate ACC with its hard-nosed and at times intransigent attitude.

An advocacy service of some type is definitely needed.

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