Research grant thrills campaigner

ACC campaigner Denise Powell is ''over the moon'' about a New Zealand Law Foundation research grant of up to $38,000 to ACC claimant support organisation Acclaim Otago.

Dr Powell, a former president of Acclaim Otago, said the recently approved grant would enable the organisation to ''further explore access to justice issues'' that had earlier been raised in a ''shadow report'' submitted to the United Nations.

In September last year, Dr Powell and other Acclaim Otago representatives had raised their concerns over these issues at a United Nations committee hearing in Switzerland.

The committee was reviewing New Zealand's compliance with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Acclaim Otago ''shadow report'' was backed by an $8550 grant from the Law Foundation.

The latest grant will fund research into ''barriers to access to justice'' faced by people challenging ACC decisions in the courts.

''There is a widely accepted problem with access to lawyers, delays in getting your case heard, having enough money for medical evidence, and dealing with the strain of a long legal battle against a multibillion-dollar corporation - often in a poor state of physical and mental health,'' she said.

Dunedin barrister Warren Forster, and law clerk Tom Barraclough, who both also worked on the previous grant, will lead the latest project.

Also involved are law clerk Tiho Mijatov and two University of Otago law students, the latter receiving $5000 scholarships to support their work.

It was ''awesome'' that Mark Henaghan, dean of the Otago law school, was also providing administrative and researcher support, she said.

The project includes the study of a sample of 200 ACC-related cases heard in the district court, High Court, and Court of Appeal.

ACC claimants as well as lawyers and advocates are also invited to participate in an online survey, details of which are at on the Acclaim Otago internet site.

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