Workcover just cant get it right

The continuing WorkCover debacle (update)

AN INDEPENDENT probe into WorkCover’s worker rehabilitation system – released under the cloak of Easter – has found it is a multi-million dollar failure for the health and well-being of injured workers, “continuing the same saga suffering workers have endured for far too long” says Mark Aldridge local independent candidate.

The Walsh Report was uploaded on the WorkCover website on Easter Thursday, with the hope, no one would notice with the long 5 day Easter break, earlier the same day it became apparent, two senior executives were suddenly given their marching orders.

The “Vocational Rehabilitation Report” is dated March 2011 but was carried out between August and November last year by Price-Waterhouse-Cooper investigator John Walsh, the report was commissioned by WorkCover under pressure from the escalating cost of workers’ rehabilitation services, which showed the usual lack of improvement in putting injured workers back to work.

It is obvious the board took their time to try and put a spin on the outcome, and it could be the use of scapegoats was the only avenue to lesson the impact.

Walsh slices through the system over its “absence of skilled support” in the case management of injured workers. Also, he criticizes long delays in referring workers for rehabilitation services to the extent that their chances of ever returning to work are “severely compromised”, “something injured workers have been screaming for as long as I can remember” says Mark

Walsh points to a “compensation culture” where ongoing payments are placed above the rehabilitation support that injured workers deserve to get them off the scheme and back into the workforce

While this situation is allowed to continue, the WorkCover system will struggle financially, says Mark, and Mr. Walsh has confirmed the very same sentiments.

Based on interviews with 51 stakeholders in the claims and rehab system, the report finds fault in several key areas. “In this report we have found that to date the scheme shows little evidence of improved return to work performance, in spite of very heavy referrals to and cost of vocational rehabilitation compared to comparable schemes,” Walsh reports.

It is still hard to overlook the make up of the work cover board, says Mark, having investigated accusations of several conflicts of interest last year, my articles attracted interest from one of the board members who hired a top Adelaide law firm to have me silenced, so I knew something damning was on the horizon.

WorkCover, is fixated with paperwork, and continue be unable to learn from their mistakes, an emphasis on cost control rather than rehabilitation and a poor success rate in getting injured workers back to work, has become an ingrained problem, I suggest looking into contracts and where they are awarded, if one wishes to lay blame.

Servicing about 53,000 employers and 430,000 employees in SA, WorkCover estimates 34,000 workers are injured each year. According to its 2010 annual report, the return-to-work rate was just 37 per cent for workers who were injured in the previous one to three years, comparing these rates with other comparable interstate and overseas operations, clearly shows WorkCover are a colossal failure.

Major investigations into the rehab system were held in 2003, ’05, ’07 and ’09 and a new one has just been released in the form of the highly-critical Walsh Report. Each review agrees in its own way that the system is defective and too costly. Each then produces a list of recommendations on how it can be fixed, which never happens, yet the board remains intact, with their positions somewhat concreted by the Labor party.

The Labor parties habit of filling boards with “Jobs for mates” begs the question, could WorkCover and the many contracts awarded by them, be accused of the very same self-interest, in one case a board member with a dynamic Labor history, also is the recipient of several very lucrative rehabilitation contracts, something I will cover in detail very soon, Mark hints.

One would have to wonder if WorkCovers huge unfounded liability will eventually undermine our states AAA rating, it is no wonder there is an the usual silence around this report, let alone any transparency regarding the board itself, and their legal attacks on those that try and ensure the public rightfully know what is going on, is indicative of the way in which they have operated for far too long now.

“My research raises more questions than it answers”, issues with tenders, contracts, a lack of transparency in their financial statements and conflict of interests appears inherent in the system, where genuine workers rights and rehabilitation services should be found, in one case it appears a contract was awarded to a company that had only been registered for an incredibly short period of time, and my requests for information have yet to be filled.

Damning reports, a near 1 billion unfounded liability, accusations of atrocious treatment of workers, a less than transparent reporting system, shall we say “a unique system to award contracts & tenders”, and absolutely no reason to continue in the same direction, makes it clear change is necessary.

I will release full details of my investigations in the coming weeks, once I can “legally” confirm all the details, then lets see if both WorkCover and the State Government can continue to sweep such important truths under the rug.

*** Change is Necessary ***

Mark M Aldridge

Independent Candidate South Australia

08 82847482 / 0403379500

aldridgemark@bigpond.com

www.markmaldridge.com

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