6000 vulnerable quake claimants wait

CHARLES ANDERSON
Last updated 05:00 21/08/2014

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Nearly 6000 vulnerable Earthquake Commission and insurance customers are still waiting for a resolution to their claims.

Figures released by the Insurance Council of New Zealand (ICNZ), combined with outstanding EQC claims, reveal about 5900 of the region's most at-risk residents are awaiting the repair or rebuild of their damaged homes - and more are being identified each month.

EQC figures from July show 27,681 customers identified as potentially vulnerable, and 22,679 of them have had their claim resolved. Of the 5002 vulnerable customers remaining, 806 were considered "high priority".

An EQC spokeswoman said 3939 new vulnerable customers had been identified since January, including 374 last month alone.

Figures compiled by the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority but released publicly by ICNZ show 962 identified as vulnerable still awaiting repairs.

ICNZ spokesman Samson Samasoni said the number of vulnerable customers whose claims had been settled had almost doubled in the past year.

The overall number of such claims had increased largely because of new over-cap claims transferred from EQC, he said.

Since August last year, insurers had received more than 1000 new over-cap claims.

Samasoni said that for every three over-cap claims insurers settled, another was transferred from EQC.

EQC training documents released under the Official Information Act show vulnerable customers are put into three categories, ranging from those with terminal illness or living with a carer to those who have an ongoing condition such as stress.

Canterbury Communities' Earthquake Recovery Network spokeswoman Leanne Curtis said she expected to see more vulnerable customers coming through the system.

"We have certainly seen more individuals coming out of the woodwork and their situation is difficult for many different reasons."

The longer they were left waiting, the more vulnerable they became, she said.

Some elderly customers would rather live out their lives without having the repairs done and have family deal with their situation later, Curtis said.

The Press revealed this week the way EQC escalated claims if customers threatened media coverage, involved a lawyer or gained ministerial intervention.

Vulnerable claimants such as Dot Boyd and Alf Johnson were stuck in limbo until media intervention.

Labour leader David Cunliffe visited Boyd's Aranui home earlier this year. Her plight received significant coverage and within days EQC passed the case on to her insurer.

Johnson, 92, was stuck in delays with his insurer, builder and council until his story came to light. His home has since been demolished in preparation for a rebuild.

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EQC customer and claims general manager Gail Kettle said EQC was committed to ensuring the vulnerable are cared for and would prioritise claims where vulnerability is identified.

- The Press

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