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NSW to restore WorkCover benefits

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Amputees and people with hearing damage will have their medical benefits restored as the NSW Government winds back cuts to its WorkCover scheme.

Finance and Services Minister Dominic Perrottet says seriously injured workers who made claims before October 2012 will receive hearing aids, prostheses and home and car modifications until retirement age.

The changes will increase scheme liabilities by about $280 million, which can be absorbed by the program’s surplus, he says.

The Opposition says the changes are an admission by the Liberal Government that harsh changes and huge cuts to the workers’ compensation scheme were unnecessary.

“This has been a massive cost-shifting exercise, away from employers and insurance companies and onto injured workers, charities and federal agencies such as Medicare,” Shadow Finance and Services Minister Peter Primrose said.

Labor says the Liberals used a “temporary deficit” in the scheme – caused by the global financial crisis – as an excuse to remove support from severely injured people.

The cuts were made two years ago to rein in a projected $4 billion deficit. The scheme has since recorded a $1 billion surplus.

Under the latest changes workers will be eligible for weekly benefits until disputed work capacity assessments have been resolved, and be entitled to “second surgery” periods.

Benefits for workers with “whole-person impairment” of 21-30% will also be available until retirement.

Mr Perrottet says a more sustainable scheme has allowed the Government to increase weekly income support for seriously injured workers by up to 70% compared with the old system.

The 2012 reforms led to premium cuts of 17.5% in the past year, returning more than $400 million to the economy.

They have helped NSW go from having the lowest return-to-work rate in the country to equal highest, Mr Perrottet says.