How Dot's case was missed

MARTIN VAN BEYNEN
Last updated 05:00 15/03/2014
Dot Boyd
KIRK HARGREAVES/FAIRFAX NZ

AT LAST: Dot Boyd, an 85-year-old Aranui homeowner, is finally getting attention from EQC about her house claim after her case was highlighted in the media and Parliament.

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Christchurch Earthquake 2011

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Dot Boyd, 85, finally got some answers from the Earthquake Commission this week as she faced another cold winter in her draughty, damaged house.

» EQC 'waiting for us to die'

But for media attention to her plight, prompted by a visit to her red brick house by Labour leader David Cunliffe, Boyd might still be waiting.

How can this be? Boyd's case, for instance, was brought to EQC's attention by then MP Lianne Dalziel in June last year.

EQC does have processes for dealing with vulnerable people and has identified over 12,000 of them. About 7000 have had their repairs completed and another 900 have them underway.

This still leaves 4220 waiting for repairs.

The Press asked EQC whether it had made inquiries into why Boyd fell through the cracks and what those inquiries had revealed.

Canterbury Home Repair Manager Reid Stiven said, in a statement, it was often very difficult to identify vulnerability, "without the help of both the people themselves and the community".

Boyd's case had prompted a process review, including how vulnerable claims were managed through EQC and Fletcher EQR, under the Canterbury Home Repair Programme (CHRP).

In other words EQC does not know. Or if it does, it's not saying.

The Wider Earthquakes Communities Action Network (WECAN), a feisty group advocating for Christchurch earthquake claimants, believes some of the answers reside in a document released last week under the Official Information Act.

The report headed Vulnerable Customers outlines the measures EQC and others have taken to identify vulnerable customers.

It reveals a bureaucratic quagmire. A typical sentence from the report:

"The Customer Channels team within the Contact Centre environment developed a step by step processes for the case management proposition and the ongoing communication strategy to support the new vulnerable criteria enhancements and customer service."

The Government directed the Ministry of Social Development (MSD) to contact all superannuitants and beneficiaries after the September, 2010, shake.

By February, 2011, EQC was recording vulnerability information in its Claims Management System, but, as the report points out, this was next to useless for the purposes of tracking, monitoring or reporting.

After the earthquake on February 22, 2011, EQC started a rapid assessment programme and assessed 180,000 properties for triage purposes.

It appears then that shortly after February 22, 2011, EQC should have known about Boyd's case from at least two sources.

The document shows EQC's Australia-based contractors did not begin handling vulnerable claims, until January 2012.

The report says MSD "seconded a resource" to EQC in July 2012 for "the purpose of identifying the vulnerable."

EQC set up a "virtual team" to advise on vulnerability criteria and MSD then used the criteria to identify and then release addressees that matched up with the criteria.

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Again Boyd's name should have come up.

Under a Memorandum of Understanding with MSD in September, 2012, it was agreed EQC would provide three scenarios and MSD would each month provide matches between the Canterbury addresses on its database and the scenarios.

This should also have highlighted Boyd's case.

In addition to the new understanding between the MSD and EQC, EQC also started developing vulnerable criteria for people phoning in and it also negotiated an information sharing agreement with Pegasus Health.

By the middle of 2012 EQC was getting data from other agencies and processing it. Again this was not straightforward.

But at least the EQC Contact Centre was "enhancing and developing" EQC's vulnerable criteria and guidelines.

The "vulnerable information" was to be captured in the Claims Management System from December 17.

EQC also enhanced its "data capture" in May (last year) and the new process was implemented from June.

By the end of September 2013 all vulnerable customers, by then up to 5288, would have been referred to the Canterbury Home Repair Programme for repair, the report says. Unfortunately Boyd again appears to have missed out.

By March this year, of course, the number of vulnerable customers had grown to about 12,000.

Stiven told The Press EQC no longer organises vulnerable customers into "tiers", and instead considers a customer vulnerable if they meet one or more of the criteria.

Despite all the bureaucratic activity designed to find and deal with the vulnerable, Stiven is now appealing to the public to "help us identify vulnerable customers".

Hopefully this will result in the vulnerable getting the attention they should have received years ago.

- The Press

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