The SIRA Board (Board) held its regular monthly meeting on Friday, 27 November 2020 and indeed its last meeting for 2020. Members joined in person at the new SIRA office, 231 Elizabeth Street, and virtually as New Ways of Working continue to evolve in SIRA.
The Board was delighted to note Prof Abby Bloom and Mr Rod Stowe PSM have been reappointed to the Board and Dr Graeme Innes AM has been reappointed to the SIRA Audit and Risk Committee (ARC).
Prof Abby Bloom, Chair of the ARC provided an update on the November ARC meeting and Ms Nancy Milne OAM, Chair of the Compulsory Third Party (CTP) Premium Committee provided an update on her recent meeting. She commented that the members of the Premium Committee are enthusiastic and processing a large volume of quite complicated material. Later in the meeting the Board considered a report on the Transitional Excess Profit and Loss Assessment for the 2018 Accident Period.
The Board received an update on SIRA input into the McDougall Review of the State Insurance and Care Governance Act 2015. The Board acknowledged SIRA’s comprehensive submission to the review.
Board members received an update on SIRA’s appearance at a hearing of the Legislative Council Select Committee inquiry into the impact of technological and other change on the future of work and workers in New South Wales, at which Ms Carmel Donnelly, Mr Darren Parker and Dr Petrina Casey were witnesses.
They also received an update on SIRA’s involvement in Reviews by the Legislative Council Standing Committee on Law and Justice, noting that the Committee is continuing the 2020 Review of the Workers Compensation Scheme, and has requested additional information from SIRA for the 2020 Review of the CTP insurance scheme.
During the year a SIRA team has been working on a comprehensive Healthcare review. The Board was advised that SIRA is planning to publish a document shortly outlining findings and planned actions for 2021.
The Board was presented with a regular report on the CTP Scheme Performance and two deep dives into aspects of the scheme which is continuing to operate very satisfactorily.
Board members discussed the proposed cost-sharing mechanism for COVID-19 workers compensation claims noting there is a strong public interest case for all insurers and employers in NSW to contribute to the cost of COVID-19 workers compensation claims. Board members look forward to hearing the feedback from the consultation.
The Board also considered a report dealing with a Recovery at Work Measurement Framework and noted that SIRA plans to test a range of measures outlined in the framework, including through some further targeted consultation. The Board is keen to see not only an improvement in return to work outcomes but also improvement in the monitoring of return to work.
Board members noted the consultation period for the Legal Support Review has been extended to 2 December 2020 due to high stakeholder interest. Board members are looking forward to hearing the consultation feedback regarding the legal supports available in the CTP insurance scheme.
Towards the end of the meeting, the Board was pleased to be joined by Ms Em Hogan, Department of Customer Service Secretary, who thanked the Board and executive for all their hard work during a very challenging year.
I too would like to thank Carmel Donnelly, SIRA Chief Executive and her team and my fellow Board members for their efforts throughout an exceptional year where I believe despite the adversities SIRA has made significant progress.
I hope you can all take some well-deserved time out over the festive period (even if you cannot go away!) so you can relax and then come back refreshed for the New Year. On behalf of the Board, I wish you and your family all the best for the festive season.
SIRA Board Chair
The SIRA Board held its regular monthly meeting on Thursday 22 October 2020 and received updates on each of the regulated insurance schemes.
Board members discussed the Independent Review of icare and the State Insurance and Care Governance Act 2015 (SICG Act) being conducted by the Hon. Robert McDougall. Matters in scope for the Independent Review include:
- Comprehensive organisation review of icare, having regard to issues recently raised in the media and in Parliament.
- Review of the government-managed workers compensation schemes (Nominal Insurer and Treasury Managed Fund) and the legislative framework that supports them.
- Statutory review of the SICG Act. The review is required by the legislation after five years to determine whether the policy objectives of the SICG Act remain valid and whether the terms of the SICG Act remain appropriate for securing those objectives.
The Board was pleased to learn that icare is now cooperating more closely and making progress on the 21 Point Plan – though there is much still to do. The Board was informed that work is proceeding on the development of some revised metrics for measuring Return to Work and was advised that a paper on this topic is planned for the next meeting. Board members were also interested to receive and discuss a report which summarised the performance of all insurers in the workers compensation system including specialised insurers and self-insurers.
Board members were updated on SIRA’s submission to the Select Committee which was established in March 2020 to inquire into and report on the impact of technological and other change on the future of work and workers in New South Wales.
Board members discussed the draft recommendations released by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART) to improve home building compensation in NSW and regulate icare’s prices.
Board members were apprised on the status of the return to office strategy being developed in accordance with the NSW Governments ‘Getting back to work in a COVID Safe way’, noting SIRA is committed to protecting the community, preventing the spread of COVID-19 while continuing to deliver its services and working flexibly.
Board members noted the following consultations which are currently open:
- New SIRA Psychological injury Standard of Practice for insurers. The updated Standard of Practice outlines SIRA’s expectations for insurers handling claims for workers with a psychological injury.
- Legal Support review for injured people in the NSW CTP scheme. SIRA is currently reviewing the provision of legal support for injured people in the compulsory third-party (CTP) insurance scheme under the Motor Accident Injuries Act 2017.
- Regulatory requirements for workplace rehabilitation service provision in NSW personal injury schemes. SIRA is seeking input from stakeholders on the NSW policy and framework underpinning the approval, engagement and performance of workplace rehabilitation providers.
SIRA Board Chair
The SIRA Board held its regular monthly meeting on Tuesday, 29 September 2020 and received a number of updates on the three statutory insurance schemes that SIRA regulates.
Ms Nancy Milne OAM, Chair of the Compulsory Third Party (CTP) Premium Committee provided an update on the September CTP Premium Committee meeting and Prof Abby Bloom, Chair of the Audit and Risk (ARC) Committee provided an update on the September ARC meeting which endorsed the SIRA Financial Statements as at 30 June 2020.
The Board were updated on the CTP regulatory application process and were pleased to note that SIRA intends to issue a licence to Youi Pty Ltd to become a licensed CTP insurer effective 1 December 2020. Youi will be the first new entrant insurer to the NSW motor accidents CTP scheme since the 2017 reforms.
Board members received an update on the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal of NSW (IPART) review into the efficiency and effectiveness of the NSW Home Building Compensation Fund.
The SIRA Board were provided with an update on the initiatives and actions being progressed by SIRA in progressing a value-based healthcare approach and approved for consultation:
- The ‘Regulatory requirements for workplace rehabilitation service provision in NSW personal injury schemes’ – which will seek input on the regulatory requirements for workplace rehabilitation to improve return-to-work rates.
- The proposed new Standard of Practice (No. 33) Managing Psychological Injury Claims – which has been developed to outline SIRA’s expectations for insurers in relation to the management of psychological injury claims.
SIRA Board members discussed SIRA’s quarterly review and realignment of its strategic priorities and welcomed the regular strategy discussions which facilitated transparent articulation of SIRA’s priorities and reporting to stakeholders.
The Board was provided with some suggestions to improve the monitoring of the NSW Workers Compensation scheme, in particular the development of some leading and lag indicators of the critical Return to Work performance. Board members were pleased to recognise a more co-operative stance from icare and emphasised once again the importance of making progress on the 21 Point Plan.
SIRA Board Chair
The SIRA Board held its regular monthly meeting on Wednesday 26 August 2020 via Skype.
The Board has welcomed the NSW Government’s announcement to bring forward and broaden the scheduled five-year review into the State Insurance and Care Governance Act 2015.
The Board noted that from March 2021, the Personal Injury Commission (PIC) will form a single, independent tribunal in New South Wales with specialist motor accidents and workers compensation divisions and discussed the introduction of a new Independent Review Officer (IRO) that can deal with complaints about insurer claims in both the CTP and workers compensation schemes.
Board members discussed the recent hearings of the Standing Committee on Law and Justice 2020 Review of the Workers Compensation Scheme and were supportive of the testimony by SIRA witnesses earlier in the week and the continued transparent approach in providing responses to questions on notice.
The Board discussed the updated 21 Point Action Plan arising from SIRA’s 2019 Compliance and Performance Review of the Nominal Insurer managed by icare and noted that key actions related to return to work targets, allocation of dedicated claims managers and the recommended culture, accountability and governance audit have yet to be progressed by icare.
The Board was pleased to receive its regular update on the Healthcare Review program and to note that at the next meeting the Board is scheduled to receive a summary of a market pricing review which will benchmark SIRA approved fees against those of other jurisdictions and health payers.
The Board noted the Motor Accidents Compensation Regulation 2020 comes into effect from 1 September 2020 and applies to claims made prior to 1 December 2017. Under the regulation, regulated fees are to be indexed annually in line with the CPI and insurers have provision to manage more smaller claims; supporting the eradication of claims farming and fraudulent claims.
The Board received an update on the CTP open data portal which has been added to the SIRA webpage to facilitate interactive customer comparisons across the five CTP insurers in NSW: AAMI, Allianz, GIO, NRMA and QBE.
Board members received a report on SIRA’s organisational health and early results from the new ‘Culture Amp’ survey and discussed the actions arising from the results. The Board is looking forward to a more detailed report next month. Board members were particularly interested in the Diversity and Inclusion initiatives underway in SIRA and cluster wide.
SIRA Board Chair
The SIRA Board held its regular monthly meeting on Thursday 23 July 2020 via Skype.
The SIRA Board had a valuable discussion with the Secretary of the Department of Customer Service (DCS), Ms Em Hogan, about the draft DCS strategy and the opportunities for SIRA to work on shared priorities with others in the Customer Service Cluster.
The SIRA Board were updated on the upcoming public hearings of the Law and Justice Committee 2020 Review of the Workers Compensation Scheme.
Dr Abby Bloom, Chair of the Audit and Risk Committee (ARC) provided an update on the July ARC Meeting which considered the draft SIRA Financial Statements as at 30 June 2020 and the cyber risk security management arrangements within DCS and SIRA.
Board members were pleased to receive a report on SIRA’s Healthcare Review which will move the personal injury schemes regulated by SIRA towards a value-based healthcare approach.
The SIRA Board approved consultation, for a period of 6 weeks, on the revised ‘Workers compensation guidelines for allied health treatment and hearing service provision’. The revised guidelines will strengthen SIRA’s ability to respond to non-compliant providers, set a three-year term of approval to ensure ongoing service delivery is consistent with the objectives of the national schemes.
In relation to the performance of the workers compensation Nominal Insurer managed by icare, the Board received a further update on the 21-point Action Plan and was briefed on the development of a small range of KPI’s for joint monthly monitoring by the icare and SIRA boards.
As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, the SIRA Board received an update on how SIRA is continually adapting services and policy especially focussing on:
- delivery of the new three-tiered Recovery Advisory Service to help small businesses re-open and recover post-COVID;
- finalising extensive consultation on PIAWE options for calculation of JobKeeper payments; and
- convening a working group to adapt the NSW Mentally Healthy Workplaces Strategy to COVID-19, particularly with a focus on supporting business and workers in the recovery phase.
In addition, the Board received a CTP Scheme Performance and Monitoring update and was interested to discuss a “Deep Dive” analysis of instances where an injured person has claims in both the CTP and Workers Compensation schemes.
SIRA Board Chair
The SIRA Board held its regular monthly meeting on Tuesday 23 June 2020 via Skype.
The Board was pleased to note SIRA’s progress in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic including adaptation of services and scheme arrangements and the implementation of amendments to the Workers Compensation Act 1987.
As COVID-19 restrictions are easing across NSW and businesses resume their operations, SIRA is providing a free Recovery Advisory Service to help small businesses transition back to work and manage their workers compensation obligations.
The SIRA Board noted the changes introduced by SIRA to the Workers Compensation Market Practice and Premium Guidelines to minimise the impact of JobKeeper payments on workers compensation premiums and commended management for their ongoing work in this space.
The Board noted the commencement on 26 June of amended workers compensation Standards of Practice including a new Standard on the management of claims during the COVID-19 pandemic. These are designed to support workers through their recovery and return to work through reducing barriers and setting clear expectations regarding insurer decision-making.
The SIRA Board received an update on SIRA’s access to the Australian Health Practitioners Regulation Agency registration database, this allows SIRA to confirm health practitioners to have the appropriate professional qualifications and registrations to deliver treatment and services in the schemes.
We received a comprehensive Compulsory Third Party (CTP) Scheme update, one of the highlights of which was the identification of a $6 reduction in the average all vehicles premium for May 2020 compared to a year ago, ($488 versus $494 as at May 2019). The scheme continues to perform well. Members of the Board were interested in a “Deep Dive” which covered Injury Profiling. In addition, the Board was advised that despite a short-term reduction in traffic volumes at the outset of the pandemic there is not sufficient evidence to warrant alteration of the premium parameters at this stage.
The SIRA Board was updated on a SIRA Customer Experience Survey which will invite 1,500 claimants to focus on their experiences claiming benefits, their treatment and recovery under both workers compensation and CTP insurance schemes.
In the context of the Prime Minister’s statement on the risk of sophisticated cyber-attacks, the Chief Executive updated the Board on risk management arrangements for public sector agencies and noted that a further update on SIRA cyber security risk management would be provided at the next meeting of the SIRA Audit and Risk Committee.
The Board received an update on the second SIRA Digital Town Hall and YamJam for employees and noted that SIRA management has conducted its first Survey using a new tool – including a check-in with how staff are feeling during COVID-19 so that management can take appropriate and swift action in response, and the results and feedback have been positive. The Board commended SIRA management for the efforts to protect employee well-being, engagement and productivity during the pandemic.
SIRA Board Chair
Given SIRA’s commitment to working from home wherever possible during the COVID-19 pandemic, the SIRA Board held its May meeting via Skype for Business. Board members discussed COVID-19, particularly in relation to workers compensation, and noted that SIRA is working with insurers, Department of Treasury officials and actuaries to understand, assess and model the potential impacts of a range of factors including changing patterns of work, fewer return to work options, variations in insurer investment returns, wages and premiums and disruption to medical treatments and care options.
The Board noted the extensive work that has been done in responding to the immediate impacts of the pandemic. In particular, the Board discussed the measures put in place to support injured workers and employers and the significant policy adaptation work underway. The Board also positively noted the creation of a dedicated COVID-19 section on the SIRA website, and the frequent communication with stakeholders via SIRA bulletins.
The Board commended the Executive team for their continued efforts to protect the safety and wellbeing of SIRA colleagues while continuing to productively serve our community in the context of COVID-19. It has been a difficult period.
The SIRA Board had a valuable discussion with the new Workers Compensation Independent Review Officer (WIRO), Mr Simon Cohen. WIRO finds solutions for injured workers with complaints about insurers, manages the provision of legal advice and assistance for injured workers, and conducts procedural reviews of insurers’ work capacity decisions made prior to 1 January 2019. For decisions post 1 January 2019, WIRO funds approved lawyers to provide injured workers with advice. Board members were impressed with Mr Cohen’s stated determination to build WIRO’s reputation as a strong systems partner.
Board members considered reports on workers compensation matters including an update on the SIRA and icare 21-Point Action Plan.
Ms Nancy Milne OAM, Chair of the SIRA CTP Premium Committee, provided an update on the May Committee meeting and an overview of the Committee’s advice to the SIRA Board. Board members received an update on the performance and monitoring of the CTP scheme, including customer experience and regulatory activities and the review of CTP premium parameters. Board Members were also provided with an analysis of early trends in emerging Award of Damages claims.
Dr Abby Bloom, Chair of the SIRA Audit and Risk Committee (ARC), provided an update on the May ARC Meeting which considered the SIRA Early Close Financial Statements. The ARC’s engagement in Early Close will enable SIRA to develop timely and high-quality year-end financial statements in line with legislative and other requirements for NSW public sector agencies.
Other matters considered at the May 2020 Board meeting included a quarterly report on key SIRA People and Culture statistics and preparation for a joint meeting with the icare Board.
SIRA Board Chair
In line with the new way of working SIRA board members attended the March meeting by connecting remotely via Skype. It is taking a while for all of us to adjust to the new operating conditions, but the meeting proceeded satisfactorily. The first item on the agenda was a discussion, led by the CE, about the steps we are taking to deal with the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, particularly:
- looking after the safety and welfare of all staff
- adapting Policy and operations to the new environment to mitigate the impact on injured people, businesses and the health system and
- activating business continuity measures to support SIRA operations and employees for the foreseeable future.
Dr Abby Bloom, Chair of SIRA’s Audit and Risk Committee mentioned a recent interim Audit and Risk Committee meeting held to discuss the problems identified by the Nominal Insurer (managed by icare) with the initial PIAWE calculation. These are to be addressed by a PIAWE Review and Remediation Plan. The Board was updated on feedback provided to icare and progress in the finalisation of that plan.
Board Members were also updated on the progress on the joint SIRA and icare 21-point Action Plan developed in response to the Compliance and Performance Review of the Workers Compensation (WC) Nominal Insurer scheme.
A separate agenda item was an update about icare’s 2020-21 Home Building Compensation Fund premium filing. Members discussed the filing currently under review.
Board Members noted progress updates on SIRA’s Health Care Review program including submissions in response to the Regulatory requirements for health care and work-related hearing loss in the NSW workers compensation public consultations. The major objective of this review is to develop a new outcomes framework containing principles for SIRA’s approach and actions to achieve improved health and experience outcomes for injured people in the WC and Compulsory Third Party (CTP) schemes. A final report is expected to be published in the second half of 2020.
Each year SIRA sponsors a research program, SIRA’s Outcomes and Applied Research (SOAR), which is funded at the rate of $1 per CTP policy and $1 per NSW worker. This provides funds of about $10 million per annum. SIRA commissioned Professor Niki Ellis to review this program last year and at this meeting she presented her nine recommendations for improvement. These were readily accepted by the Board.
Board Members approved the publication of several 1999 and 2017 CTP Scheme Performance Reports including analysis of accident data to 30 June 2018 and to 30 June 2019.
Other matters at the March 2020 Board meeting included:
- Ms Nancy Milne, OAM, Chair of the CTP Premium Committee provided an overview of key premium-related matters raised at its meeting earlier in the month.
- Updates on the uptake of support programs and other initiatives available for workers affected by section 39 of the Workers Compensation Act 1987 who have subsequently been affected by section 59A of the Act.
- A progress report on several matters relating to the CTP scheme.
Board members thanked the executive for stepping up to the recent challenges and encouraged everyone to follow the personal and social conditions necessary to limit the damage caused by the virus.
At its first meeting for 2020, the SIRA Board thanked and acknowledged the outstanding efforts of firefighters and other emergency service workers and volunteers over an unprecedented bushfire season. The Board noted measures undertaken by SIRA to work with all NSW compensation insurers to understand and discuss their approaches to supporting affected workers with a work-related injury.
Board Members expressed disappointment with the progress on the joint SIRA and icare 21-point Action Plan developed in response to the Compliance and Performance Review of the Workers Compensation Nominal Insurer scheme (managed by icare).The Board also noted recent analysis provided by EY scheme actuaries on the performance of the Nominal Insurer and updates on other regulatory actions taken by SIRA, particularly to improve claims management with the ultimate objective of improving return to work results.
The Board noted updates and continues to monitor the uptake of support programs and other initiatives available for workers affected by section 39 of the Workers Compensation Act 1987 (the Act) who have subsequently been affected by section 59A of the Act.
Board Members received updates on the Compulsory Third Party (CTP) Scheme which is performing in line with expectations. The Board was informed that the average all vehicles premium for December 2019 was $509 compared to $544 twelve months previously. The Board was also interested to see some pioneering analysis of a composite data base formed by linking motor vehicle crash, hospital records and CTP claims data.
The Board was pleased to note that responses have been received from key stakeholders following the release the of the Measuring Return to Work (RTW) discussion paper as part of SIRA’s public consultation aimed at investigating how the measurement of RTW metrics could be strengthened across the schemes SIRA regulates.
Board Members endorsed in principle a document which describes SIRA’s Regulatory Approach and will soon be published on the SIRA website. It sets out SIRA’s desired outcomes, our goals, the roles of the regulator and the regulatory principles that we will follow to ensure fair, secure and efficient markets, and that injured people get the right treatment and support when they need it.
Other matters at the February 2020 Board meeting included:
- discussing current activities related to SIRA’s organisational realignment as it relates to SIRA’s future strategic direction;
- a presentation of an independent review of SIRA’s organisational health by a representative from Bendelta; and
- continuing discussions on the current issues related to the building and construction industry.