Call for parents to get ACC payouts when their kids get hurt

The head of Starship Hospital wants parents who have to take time off work to look after seriously injured children to be eligible for ACC. 

A new study by Michael Shepherd and colleagues, published in the New Zealand Medical Journal on Friday, found the economic cost of child injuries each year adds up to $400 million - much higher than previous estimates. 

"For me it is a really clear message that we need to do more to prevent the serious components of these injuries, and it has a huge societal impact," Dr Shepherd told The AM Show on Friday.

The research focused on a single year - 2014 - and found in that 12 months, 257,000 kids were seriously hurt, resulting in 345,000 ACC claims. Falls made up 40 percent of them, followed by sports injuries (30 percent). 'Animate mechanical forces' - being hurt by other people and animals - made up 12 percent of claims, and 7.6 percent were from 'inanimate mechanical forces' such as "machinery and explosions". 

The rest included vehicle accidents (which made up nearly half the 34 childhood deaths to injury that year), fire and heat, swallowing objects, water-related incidents and 'other'. 

All-up, the researchers say 200 "full lives in perfect health" were lost to injury that year thanks to preventable childhood injuries. 

Māori kids were 3.4 times more likely to die from unintentional injuries than Pakeha. 

"I don't think we know enough about that," said Dr Shepherd. "What is clear is that's a real problem - it speaks to the inequities within our system, as a society it speaks to the fact we haven't fulfilled our obligations from a Tiriti o Waitangi perspective, and I think we need to do a whole lot of work to understand that, to work with Māori, to understand that and to prevent that."

The study found that while the direct cost to ACC was $200 million, the researchers added another $29 million in lost lifetime earnings for those who were killed, and $170 million in lost productivity.

Michael Shepherd.
Michael Shepherd. Photo credit: The AM Show

Dr Shepherd said again Māori whanau were hit hard, as they're more likely to be working in jobs with lower amounts of sick leave, or in casual work where taking time off means losing income altogether. 

Adults who get hurt and have to take time off work can get up to 80 percent of their incomes paid through ACC, topped up to 100 percent by ACC if they can work some reduced hours, paid by their employer. 

"When you're from a whanau and your child breaks their arm and you have to take four days off work, I think you should be paid for that by ACC just like if you're an adult and you break your arm," said Dr Shepherd. 

"At the moment they're not, and that creates worse inequities within our system."