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.