Page 558 - Week 02 - Thursday, 24 March 2022

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The period since we commenced self-insurance has seen reductions in the amount of time that it takes to process workers compensation claims, earlier access to medical and rehabilitation services, increased client satisfaction and faster returns to safe and suitable work. It was in anticipation of achieving these types of improvements that this government invested in a major project to establish a self-insurer, including staffing and systems, legislation, licensing and complex governance.

A major component of that project involved planning and managing the transfer of approximately 30,000 past workers compensation claims to the new self-insurer. Approximately 1,500 of those claims were for people who were still receiving financial, medical and rehabilitation support and it was imperative that those services not be disrupted in the time of transition.

This was the largest claim transfer that the commonwealth insurer, Comcare, had attempted. In many cases, the systems and governance arrangements that would be used had to be co-designed and developed with the commonwealth to support the transfer. Overall, the transition process was complex and fast-moving. It had not been done on this scale before and there were very narrow margins for error, beyond which injured and ill people may not have received payments and essential services.

Given the scale, financial implications and complexity of the project, it was not surprising that the ACT Auditor-General, and subsequently the public accounts committee, would take an interest in and examine the conduct of the project. It was gratifying to see the Auditor-General’s observation, in their report No 6 of 2020, that the government “has developed effective governance arrangements for the management and oversight of the public sector workers compensation fund and the territory’s compliance with its self-insurance licence requirements” and, furthermore, that it “has established effective contract management arrangements to oversee the claims administration services”.

The transition to workers compensation self-insurance was a project that was well conceived, planned and executed. It has produced tangible and sustainable benefits for the ACT community. Significantly, the project’s success was underpinned by engagement with affected workers and their trade unions. The ACT self-insurer was co-designed by a working group comprising departmental and union officials with expertise and experience in workers compensation. The group operated over 12 months and was instrumental in designing the self-insurer’s supporting governance and infrastructure. It also oversaw key aspects of the claim transition, including supporting consultation and communication processes that were integral to the transition.

The constructive and cooperative approach of that committee and the strong results it achieved influenced this government’s decision to legislate a ministerial advisory body with a similar composition. The Public Sector Workers Compensation Fund Advisory Committee now monitors the scheme and advises me on the performance of the self-insurer and the government’s return-to-work infrastructure.

Although Auditor-General’s report 6 of 2020 made no recommendations, it did identify opportunities for improvement in respect of data validation and highlighted

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