New workcover ombudsman

Saturday, 03 September, 2005

The Victorian state government will establish a WorkCover Ombudsman to handle WorkCover and TAC complaints, the latest move in a series of historic reforms to the accident compensation sector in Victoria.

Announcing the move at the ALP State Conference, the Premier, Steve Bracks, said the WorkCover Ombudsman would in effect be WorkCover's watchdog. "Injured workers who believe they have been treated unfairly will be able to make a complaint and that complaint will be heard by an independent umpire," Bracks said.

Bracks said the government regarded access to fair compensation for any person injured on our roads or in our workplaces as a fundamental right.

"This change will ensure all injured workers, regardless of their employer's insurance arrangements, will have access to the same level of service," Bracks said. "It makes sense because it will result in greater efficiencies that may lead to reduced premiums for motorists and employers in the future."

WorkCover Minister John Lenders said the change was part of the Accident Compensation and Transport Accidents Acts (Ombudsman) Bill 2005. The Bill confirms the current powers of the State Ombudsman to include VWA claims agents and self-insurers, so all Victorians have equal access and rights to resolution.

"The reforms ensure Victoria continues to lead Australia in accident compensation through a combination of strong financial management and socially progressive benefits and supports," Lenders said. The Ombudsman, George Brouwer, welcomed the changes. "These powers are consistent with the mandate of the Ombudsman's office and will help ensure claims are managed in the most efficient and fairest way possible," he said.

The main functions of the WorkCover Ombudsman will include investigating and resolving individual complaints, educating the public and the industry about the role, as well as recommending solutions to systemic problems.

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