Media Release

DUST DISEASES SCHEME NOT ABOLISHED

Media Release | Thursday, 6 August 2015

Chief Executive Officer of Safety, Return to Work and Support Vivek Bhatia said he was disappointed to read claims in the media today the Workers’ Compensation Dust Diseases Board was being abolished – claims that had distressed victims of dust diseases and their families, as well as employees.

“The Dust Diseases Scheme is not being abolished,” Mr Bhatia said.

“Under the reform package currently before Parliament, the Workers’ Compensation Dust Disease Board agency becomes the Dust Diseases Authority, with its own Chief Executive Officer.

“These changes are 100 per cent about building on the excellent support already in place for the victims of dust diseases.

“As CEO of Safety, Return to Work and Support, I have responsibility for the 50 committed staff of the current Workers’ Compensation Dust Diseases Board who provide assistance to 3500 victims and families, and 500 people who join the Scheme each year, and will continue to do so as the Dust Diseases Authority. In this role I also hold the appointment of Chair of the Dust Diseases Board.

“The only change is the Board that oversees the Workers’ Compensation Dust Diseases Board. This is a seven person group whose only role in providing medical and financial assistance, is to meet once a month to approve claims on the basis of recommendations by the Agency management.

“The appointment of staff and their roles and responsibilities are not and never have been determined by the Board that oversees the Workers’ Compensation Dust Diseases Board. Entitlements and benefits to victims are also not decided by them but are written in law (including ancillary benefits such as home attendant care, etc.).

“Under the present arrangements, victims are assessed in a two-step process – their application is first signed off by the Medical Authority and then receives final approval at the monthly Board meeting. The whole process can take up to 30 days – a long time for someone who is suffering from a terminal condition.

“By removing this step means victims of dust diseases will actually receive their financial assistance and access to medical and health care support services faster.

“Right now, members of the Board of the Workers’ Compensation Dust Diseases Board have limited opportunity to influence the decision-making of the Board of Safety, Return to Work and Support.

“Under new governance arrangements, the Dust Diseases Advisory Committee will have a direct line to the Board of Insurance and Care NSW.

“We will also continue our commitment to fund research grants, and the expert Advisory Committee will inform those decisions.

“We want to achieve the best possible outcomes for victims of dust diseases, and these changes will ensure this happens,” Mr Bhatia said.

Key facts

  • The dust diseases scheme has been in operation since 1927.
  • Since its establishment the scheme has assisted more than 14,200 victims and their families.
  • The Dust Diseases scheme provides support to more than 3,500 victims including, 1,072 workers and 2,872 dependants of deceased workers.
  • Compensation and related payments of around $90 million per year.
  • The scheme has provided more than $13 million in research grants in the past decade into the research, prevention, diagnosis and treatment of dust diseases.