When Paige Carpenter was left severely disabled at birth because of a midwife's mistake, her mother was told she'd receive lifetime compensation from ACC. But 14 years later, Donna Carpenter has found out there are strings attached.
She and Paige have since moved to England to be with extended family, but to continue receiving payments they must fly back to New Zealand at least once every month.
The Carpenters say their battle with ACC to pay for a spinal operation for 14-year-old Paige is forcing them to go to great lengths, all the way from Essex to Auckland.
Paige was awarded compensation as a baby because of a mistake during her birth in Whakatane, which left her with cerebral palsy. But now that her mum has moved to England they say they have to travel back to New Zealand at least every 28 days to continue receiving payments.
After getting their passports stamped in New Zealand, sometimes they only stay a night and then fly back again.
“We have tried through our lawyer and through the courts to fight this for well over a year before we even made this trip,” says Donna. “It was a hard decision to do it and probably sounds really stupid to some people to do it, but if we stop now or if we stopped after once or twice then it would have been stopped.”
Donna says the money they do get barely covers the cost of the return trip and they've been told the payments may soon be halved.
While Paige and her siblings were born in New Zealand, personal circumstances forced them to move to England to be with Donna’s extended family and new partner, Stephen Barnett.
“Without extended family, because we care for Paige 24 hours a day, We wouldn’t have people to step in when we need them to help out with basic things, such as occasionally getting children to schools or taking them out when we're exhausted from working through the night,” says Mr Barnett. “It's basic things that you don’t normally need, but with a disabled child you do need it.”
ACC says support is restricted when clients leave New Zealand and a spokesman says it's not possible to guarantee permanent compensation for Paige's care. In a statement, ACC said it is “committed to working with Paige's family to consider ongoing solutions that will provide the family with peace of mind regarding the duration of overseas care approved, while at the same time ensuring ACC meets its legislative responsibilities”.
ACC says it is waiting for doctors’ reports to determine how much longer the compensation will continue.
But the family say they're in it for the long haul and they'll continue to make the journey to New Zealand for as long as they can afford just to make their point.