Terminally ill woman’s fight for PIP

A Terminally ill woman is forced to fight for her benefits.
Lorraine Cox who suffers with Motor Neurone Disease has made a stand to challenge the legal definition of a terminal illness after she she says she was ‘refused access’ to a fast-tracked disability allowance due to the uncertainty over how long she has to live.
She was required to still look for work months after she medically retired because of her condition.

The 40-year-old then underwent a medical assessment for both ‘Universal Credit’ and ‘Personal Independence Payment’ (PIP) due to a rule which states that those who qualify for payment are expected to die within a period of six months.

Ms Cox who was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease back in 2018 told the Herald; “The process of seeking to obtain benefits has continually exacerbated my stress levels and anxiety.


“I have had to constantly fight to get the same entitlement to benefits as other people who are terminally ill. WELCOME TO MY WORLD! “Despite being diagnosed with a terminal illness, I was refused fast track access to additional support and had to show that I was searching for work in order to receive universal credit.”

Lorraine added, “I wouldn’t wish my experience on anyone. I believe the system has failed me and the approach to dealing with people who have a terminal illness needs urgently addressed. I have accepted my path in life now but please don’t put anyone else through it.”

Law Centre NI legal officer, John McCloskey, who is assisting Lorraine in her application explained; “The inclusion of the six month criterion in the legal definition of a terminal illness has been described as cruel.
It is restricting access to support for people at a very difficult time.

“The six month rule was introduced over 30 years ago and was intended to assist people in accessing special terminal illness rules, not restrict them. It is now hurting terminally ill people who have an illness that’s more difficult to accurately predict.

“The Westminster all-party parliamentary group for terminal illness described the six month criterion as ‘unfit for purpose’ and called on the UK government to amend the legal definition of a terminal illness.
“Walter Rader, in his independent review of PIP in Northern Ireland, recommended that the clinical judgement of a medical practitioner should be sufficient to allow special rules to apply. We are now testing whether the application of the six month criterion is in fact lawful.”

PIP figures provide fresh evidence of virus deaths

Coronavirus: Government PIP figures provide fresh evidence of virus deaths By John Pring Dqan2TSWkAEnCoe

New government figures have revealed that the proportion of disability benefit claimants who died in April was 15 per cent higher than the previous year, providing fresh evidence of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on disabled people.

The figures, secured by Labour MP Debbie Abrahams, also show a rise of eight per cent in the proportion of personal independence payment (PIP) claimants who died in March, compared with March 2019.

The figures emerged only days after Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures showed disabled* females aged between nine and 64 were 11.3 times more likely to have died due to COVID-19 than non-disabled females in the same age group, while disabled males* between nine and 64 were 6.5 times more likely to have died than non-disabled males.

The ONS figures, reported by Disability News Service (DNS) and later followed up by The Times and other newspapers – but previously largely ignored by the mainstream media – prompted calls for an inquiry into the causes of the disproportionate impact of coronavirus on disabled people.

They also led to calls for the government to take urgent action to protect disabled people from COVID-19 in advance of an expected second wave of the virus.

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Tory policies have killed a quarter of a million people in the last decade

Austerity deaths and COVID policies have sent tens of thousands to an early grave.

A decade of Tory austerity, coupled with the more recent COVID-19 mismanagement, has killed over 250,000 people, an exclusive TLE investigation has revealed.

More than 100,000 people have died following social security cuts, while around 120,000 perished due to reductions in health and social spending and experts have predicted that the UK’s COVID-related death toll of circa 60,000 is double the number it needed to be.

Coupled with the tens of thousands of lives cut short by a failure by successive governments to impose tougher legislation to tackle air pollution and you have a pretty grim picture.

Why is the Work Capability Assessment Costing Britain More Than it Saves?

Social security deaths: “Cover-up”

As part of Tory-Liberal coalition and later Tory government “reforms,” unprecedented numbers of social security claims were denied or terminated. Between March 2014 and February 2017, 119,590 deaths were recorded by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

The deceased had recently been “flowed off” Incapacity Benefit, Severe Disablement Allowance, and/or Employment Support Allowance. Many died as a direct result: Stress triggered fatal heart-attacks, strokes, and seizures; significant numbers of claimants with depression killed themselves; anxiety shortened the lives of terminally-ill people; and some starved to death. In the same period, life expectancy declined. Consider the following cases as a tiny sample of the broader toll:

After his social security was terminated, Mark Wood (44) of Oxfordshire was found dead, weighing five stone. Likewise, Errol Graham (57) died in his Nottingham flat with no gas or electricity, weighing four-and-a-half-stone.

TORIES: And the cost of a life

Forty-nine-year-old James Oliver’s death in Hastings from chronic liver disease was accelerated by the stress caused by the DWP’s refusal to award social security. His brother, David Smith, says that James sank into despair: “He just downed more or less anything he could lay his hands on.” The death of Moira Drury (61) of Essex, who had cancer, was also hastened by the torment. Her daughter Nichole said: “She told me the day before she died that the stress of having her benefits removed contributed to her decline.”

David Barr (28) of Fife jumped from the Forth Road Bridge after his money was stopped. Leanne Chambers (30) drowned herself in the River Wear, Durham, in fear of an impending Work Capability Assessment. Citing data protection, between 2015 and 2020, the DWP destroyed 50 internal reviews into claimants’ suicides. Linda Cooksey, the sister of the blind and agoraphobic suicide victim, Tim Salter, describes it as a “cover-up.”

Health and social care cuts: “Economic murder”

In addition to the above, successive Tory governments cut back on health and social care. A few years ago, the BMJ published a study suggesting that 120,000 people in England alone had died and would die between 2010 and 2020 as a result of health and social care cuts. DWP cuts killed people of all ages. Health and social spending reductions mainly ended the lives of the over-60s.

According to the study, between 2001 and 2010 under Labour PMs Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, average per capita health spending increased by 3.8 percent a year. Deaths decreased by 0.77 percent. Between 2010 and 2015 under the Tory-Liberal coalition, annual spending increased by just 0.4 percent and excess annual mortality increased by 0.87 percent. The majority of the estimated 45,000 excess deaths between 2010 and 2014 occurred in care homes.

Since 2010, the Tories have cut local social care budgets by 9 percent per person. Age UK found that by 2019, 1.3m pensioners, including those who could afford to pay, were waiting for care home vacancies. Between June 2017 and December 2019, 74,000 elderly people in England alone died without receiving the social care they needed. Care providers typically say that applicants either do not meet eligibility requirements or the applicants are passed to other service providers.

Just a few DWP victims:

Consider the effects of cuts to the health system.

Over 5,000 people died between 2016 and 2019 on hospital trolleys after waiting between six and 11 hours for treatment. Donald Driver (84) of Coventry died after falling from a trolley, following a six-hour wait: “had my father been prioritised … [he] would still be here,” said his daughter, Emma. Ambulance response times are worsening. Joseph Edge (74) of Denbighshire, Wales, died of a heart-attack after waiting 16 hours for an ambulance. In addition, between 2013 and 2017, appointment waiting times increased by 50 percent and preventable deaths increased by a quarter. Norma Smith (57) of Cumbria died of a heart-attack and from oesophageal cancer, following a seven-month wait to see an ear, nose, and throat specialist.

Cambridge Professor Lawrence P. King, who participated in the BMJ study, described austerity as “a public health disaster. It is not an exaggeration to call it economic murder.”

Coronavirus: Government PIP figures provide fresh evidence of virus deaths

Covid-19: “Superman”

The decade of Tory-Liberal cuts brought much of the UK to the brink of collapse. Then COVID-19 struck. The Tory cult of ultra-neoliberalism’s first reaction was to save profits (“the economy”) by carrying on as normal.

“[W]hen there is a risk that new diseases such as coronavirus will trigger a panic and a desire for market segregation that go beyond what is medically rational,” Boris Johnson told businesses in February, “humanity needs some government somewhere that is willing at least to make the case powerfully for freedom of exchange.” Johnson said that the UK (meaning the poor and vulnerable) would be that country: “ready to take off its Clark Kent spectacles and leap into the phone booth and emerge with its cloak flowing.”

Superman Johnson turned out to be a COVID super-spreader, boasting on 3 March, and in defiance of local guidelines for physical contact: “I was at a hospital where there were a few coronavirus patients and I shook hands with everybody.” Some in Johnson’s cabinet, as well as his scientific advisors, subsequently caught COVID. Following the alleged advice of Dominic Cummings (which he and the government deny), namely “herd immunity …if that means some pensioners die, too bad,” it was as late as 23 March that the UK officially locked-down. The Johnson government also refused to follow World Health Organization guidelines on tracking, testing, and tracing.

By June, the Office for National Statistics reported 63,000 excess deaths, the majority of which were linked to coronavirus and its effects. In the US, research suggests that early lockdowns could have prevented significant rates of mortality. In the UK, Professor John Edmunds of the government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies said: “I wish we had gone into lockdown earlier. That has cost a lot of lives.” Two days later, Professor Neil Ferguson, one of the original modellers at Imperial College London, told the Science and Technology Committee: “had we introduced lockdown measures a week earlier, we would have reduced the final death toll by at least a half.”

Ergo, the Johnson administration is responsible for at least 30,000 COVID-related fatalities.


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PIP: Just how long is a piece of string?


PIP claim: Benefit rules for the terminally ill are to finally change – DWP insists ‘shortly’ ‘shortly’ what does that mean!!!!

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PIP – Personal Independence Payment is a payment which replaces the Disability Living Allowance (DLA). Today, DWP minister Justin Tomlinson told MPs a “change” to certain rules for PIP claims is to be delivered “shortly”.

MPs put questions to Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey and her team of Department of Work and Pension (DWP) ministers today in the House of Commons. During the Work and Pensions Questions, Chris Evans MP asked Justin Tomlinson about the current six-month life expectancy rule relating to claiming PIP under Special Rules for Terminal Illness.

Currently, a person must be aged 16 or older and usually have not reached state pension age. Eligibility rules also state they must have a health condition or disability “where you:

  • Have had difficulties with daily living or getting around (or both) for three months
  • Expect these difficulties to continue for at least nine months”.
PIP claim: Justine Tomlinson MP was asked about the changes to PIP in the House of Commons
“SHORTLY” How long is a piece of string!

Usually, they will need to have lived in England, Scotland or Wales for at least two of the last three years, and be in one of these countries when they apply. For terminal illness, there are different rules when it comes to claiming PIP.

Gov.uk states that “you can claim PIP if:

  • Your doctor or a medical professional has said you might have less than six months to live
  • You are aged 16 or over and usually have not reached state pension age”.

Charities have urged for reform to the rules, saying the six-month rule forces people to “prove they have six months left to live”.

A review into the system was launched last year.

Today, Mr Tomlinson said that the Department had made “good progress”, adding that they “expect to be able to provide an update on the outcome of the evaluation shortly”.

Demanding reform in the House of Commons today, Mr Evans said that only 50 percent of people diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease can claim under the PIP speical rules due to the six-month life expectancy rule.

PIP claim: Chris Evans MP asked about the changes to PIP in the House of Commons

PIP claim: Chris Evans MP asked about the changes to PIP in the House of Commons. He said that others with the condition are having to go through the standard prodecures.

“Motor neurone disease is an utterly wicked, terrible disease,” he said. “Those who have it are locked in and see their bodies waste away, while their families watch their loved ones slowly slide away.

Mr Tomlinson today went on to assure changes would be coming into effect.

He added that the coronavirus crisis had resulted in a delay in the evaluation, but a change was to be brought forward “shortly”.

The minister said: “The Secretary of State and I are passionate about making changes: it will not be the status quo. “Covid-19 caused a delay to the final part of the consultation with the medical professionals, but we will bring forward a change shortly.”


Where to go for benefits help


Watchdog snubs call for investigation into DWP deaths

Watchdog snubs call for probe into DWP deaths, after delay of more than a year – By John Pring


The equality watchdog has rejected calls for it to investigate deaths linked to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), more than a year after an MP asked it to launch an inquiry.

Labour’s Debbie Abrahams, a former shadow work and pensions secretary, first approached the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) in April last year with her concerns about links between DWP and the deaths of benefit claimants, and the wider impact of DWP policies on disabled people.

Eight months ago, the commission said it was reviewing what “potential” work it could undertake to tackle “discriminatory decision-making in the social security system” and would respond to Abrahams “in due course”.

Now, 14 months after she first raised concerns with the commission, and following another “holding reply” in February, EHRC has finally decided that, “due to the pandemic”, it will not be able to carry out an inquiry into DWP this year.

It only produced this response after being approached again by Abrahams and Disability News Service (DNS).

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DWP restores payments for man with brain damage

MP Gavin Newlands says ‘the system is failing those in the greatest need’
MP Gavin Newlands says ‘the system is failing those in the greatest need’
A FATHER with brain damage left living on toast to save food for his family after the DWP slashed his benefits has had his payments restored after the ordeal was exposed by our sister title The National.

Scott (not his real name) said he spent days eating only bread to ensure his wife Lorna and their children, aged six and one, had proper meals after assessors ruled he should no longer receive any Personal Independence Payments (PIP).

The £450-per-month loss left them reliant on food banks and charity support after the DWP said he was ineligible for help.

That’s despite the fact Scott lives with constant migraines, memory problems, speech problems and muscle weakness after a devastating car crash a decade ago.

The 34-year-old was cut from the passenger seat of the wreckage and has been unable to return to work since. Doctors caring for the Renfrewshire man, who also has complex mental health issues, wrote to authorities to explain and said the PIP wrangle had left him “very distressed”.

Scott was backed by the brain injury association Headway and his MP Gavin Newlands told this newspaper that the case shows “there is something deeply wrong with the benefits system”.

But ten days after The National revealed Scott’s ordeal, the DWP has confirmed it will reinstate his PIP support and backdate payments. And he will not have to prove his impairments to assessors again until 2030.

The Paisley man said: “I’m very relieved – but I found out on the phone and I won’t believe it until I get the letter in. This means a bit more stability for us and I can stop stressing and starving myself because I can make sure there’s enough food to feed us.

“I was starving myself to make sure they had enough to eat. I wasn’t eating anything but toast for three or four days at a time, I’ve lost a lot of weight. “It’s shocking that this can happen. I was just asking for what I was due. “And I’m not the only one in this position, I’ve just had enough strength to go further with it.

People need to keep fighting – don’t take the DWP’s word for it, take things further.”

The couple asked The National not to publish their real names for fear of stigma over their financial struggle. Their MP commented: “I was delighted to hear my constituent has quite rightly had his PIP payment reinstated, although still hugely disappointed at the time and effort it has taken to get to this position. Yet again, another DWP decision has been found to be misguided and inaccurate.

“These are people’s lives we are talking about, the DWP really has to take a look at its processes to identify the huge number of failings that leave vulnerable people in situations of great stress through no fault of their own. The system is failing those in the greatest need and the UK Government needs to act on this.”

The DWP said it is unable to comment without written permission from the claimant.

However, the department says it is “committed to helping people get the support they are entitled to and decisions are made based on all the evidence we have received at the time”.

Peter McCabe, chief executive of brain injury association Headway, said Scott’s story is sadly not unique, adding: “We are working with the DWP and assessment firms to enhance the process of applying for benefits and improve understanding of brain injury.


PIP: A woman who has MND is challenging the legal definition of a terminal illness

Lorraine Cox

A woman who has Motor Neurone Disease is challenging the legal definition of a terminal illness after she had to wait more than a year to qualify for Personal Independence Payment (PIP).

Lorraine Cox, who is from Derrylin, is seeking a judicial review at Belfast High Court. She told BBC News NI her award of benefits should have been fast-tracked without the need for assessment.

Ms Cox said she had worked all her adult life and received her diagnosis in 2017 when she was 37. There is no effective treatment for Motor Neurone Disease, which sees muscle waste away after a loss of nerve cells that control movement, speech and breathing.

It is estimated that about half of the 1,500 people diagnosed each year in the UK die within 24 months.

“When I got the diagnosis, I thought, well you know, this is pretty straightforward as you would think, you’d get your benefits and you’d have a chance then to move on with your life and live whatever time you have left as best as possible,” Lorraine Cox told BBC News NI’s Good Morning Ulster. “However, that has not been the case.”


Despite having letters from her GP and consultant to confirm her condition was life-limiting, she was approved for PIP in February 2020 following two years of mandatory reconsiderations, tribunals, appeals, two PIP applications and face-to-face assessments.

Ms Cox added she wanted to speak out to explain how “patronising it is and intimidating, and belittling”.

“For anyone who is terminally ill they don’t need this additional stress.

“This should be eradicated and I would hope going forward, please God, common sense will prevail and the legislation will be reviewed and changed so that people like myself will never have to go through this interrogation process.”

She continued: “I know a lot of people can relate to this. “I suppose probably an awful lot of people have given up or did give up, because I felt like giving up many a time.”

Ms Cox said she was taking the judicial review “to make sure no one else” has to go through the same process. The hearing is set to continue on Friday.

Benefits assessment: DWP urged to extend temporary suspension of face-to-face meetings as Covid-19 remains a risk

‘As Covid-19 is still a danger, the Government should extend this policy’
– i news.

DWP 'not open' about contracting out impact - FTAdviser.com
The Government is being urged to extend the temporary suspension of face-to-face assessments for people claiming disability benefits because the coronavirus pandemic still presents a danger.

On 17 March, in-person meetings for all sickness and disability benefits were put on hold for three months to protect vulnerable people “from unnecessary risk of exposure to coronavirus” by forcing them to leave home to attend an assessment centre. Instead the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) switched to telephone or paper-based assessments.

With the arrangement due to end on 19 June while elements of the lockdown to slow the spread of Covid-19 are still in place, anti-poverty charity Turn2us called on the DWP to extend the policy.

“Suspending face-to-face work capability assessments was a precautionary measure to protect people from unnecessary risk to the coronavirus,” said Sara Willcocks, head of communications. “As Covid-19 is still a danger, the Government should extend this policy.

‘Under review’
Earlier minister for disabled people Justin Tomlinson had said the temporary suspension was under review, but disability equality charity Scope said benefits claimants needed clarity on whether it would continue.

“We’re now approaching the end of the initial three month suspension of face-to-face assessments announced at the start of lockdown, and disabled people need to have clarity on whether the suspension will continue and for how long,” said Ceri Smith, head of policy and campaigns.

“The most important thing is that disabled people awaiting assessments aren’t put in a position where they will have to choose between their health and financial security.”

The Disability Benefits Consortium, a group of 100 charities campaigning for a fair benefits system, said it welcomed the temporary suspension but was concerned about the decision to review the measure.


Disabled people needed to “have the assessment of their choice”, it said, adding: “This is an opportunity to improve a small element of the assessment process in the long-term and we must not miss it.”

Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Jonathan Reynolds criticised the concept of face-to-face assessments, saying they were often a “stressful and dehumanising part of claiming entitlements for disabled people”.

“The crisis has shown that it is possible to do things differently, so this moment should prompt a well overdue rethink about how the DWP can better tailor assessments to individual needs. Labour would design a new social security system which provides a basic standard of living for everyone and has dignity and respect at its heart,” he said.

People claiming sickness and disability benefits tend to have face-to-face assessments, while new claimants have assessments as part of their application. They usually have to travel to an assessment centre but for the last three months, claimants have not had to attend scheduled meetings about Personal Independence Payments (PIP), which helps cover the costs of living with a disability, or Employment and Support Allowance (ESA), a benefit for people whose health affects their ability to work. Those on Universal Credit who have health checks for their benefits, and those receiving Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit, have also been exempt from planned assessments. The DWP has contacted them to arrange paper or telephone-based evaluations instead.

In a response to a written question about the assessments from Conservative MP for Cities of London and Westminster Nickie Aiken, Mr Tomlinson said that the temporary suspension was under review in light of the latest public health advice.

“Paper-based reviews have always been a feature of Personal Independence Payment assessments and Work Capability Assessments and wherever possible Assessment Providers will conduct a paper-based review,” he said.

“Telephone-based assessments for suitable cases are a temporary measure replacing face-to-face assessments, which were suspended across all health and disability benefits from 17 March due to Covid-19. We are currently in the process of reviewing this measure in light of the latest public health advice and will confirm next steps as soon as possible.”

The DWP said: “Our priority throughout this health emergency continues to be to protect the public and staff, while ensuring people get the benefits they are entitled to quickly and safely.” YEAH SURE


PIP and Universal Credit assessments may change this week

PIP and Universal Credit assessments may change this week – what you should know. Face-to-face assessment interviews have been temporarily suspended since March due to the coronavirus pandemic

Claiming Personal Independence Payments (PIP) | Crohn's & Colitis UK

In March, the UK Government announced that claimants on disability benefits would no longer be required to attend face-to-face assessments due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The change was introduced on March 17 for an initial three-month period and covers health checks for Personal Independence Payments (PIP), Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) and Universal Credit.

The suspension of face-to-face assessments also includes new claims to those benefits and recipients of Industrial Injuries Disablement Benefit.

The temporary measure means that the majority of new claims are being assessed over the telephone or just on the evidence submitted.

However, the suspension period is due to end this week – on Wednesday, June 17 – and there’s no word yet on any extension.

The official comment from the UK Government says they are still reviewing the situation.

Benefits and Work reports that Justin Tomlinson, minister of state for disabled people, told MPs last week: “As previously announced, all face-to-face assessments for health and disability benefits were suspended from 17 March 2020 for an initial period of three months.

“We are currently in the process of reviewing this measure in light of the latest public health advice and will confirm next steps as soon as possible.”

If you are making a claim for PIP, ESA, or Universal Credit, don’t be put off by the prospect of a face-to-face assessment because the odds are that we’re not going to see them back in place for some time to come.

For more information on claiming benefits, visit Gov.uk here


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We need better support for families fighting to care for loved ones

This year has shown us in monumental ways that change can happen when people come together – So let’s urgently come together to fight the cause of these unsung champions.

Kelly Terranova told me about her mother, who has suffered from Huntington’s disease – an incurable brain condition – for over 20 years

I was moved to tears last week by the awful story of one family’s fight for help in caring for a stricken loved one. Kelly Terranova told me about her mother, who has suffered from Huntington’s disease – an incurable brain condition – for over 20 years.

Kelly’s father is her chief carer. Their story is particularly relevant because last week was Carers Week, which highlights the challenges faced by unpaid carers. Kelly says that their fight for help became so stressful that at one point it left her father bedridden – he’s a fitness fanatic who has run successful global companies.


She says: “The Government requires that all those with permanent irreversible conditions reapply for personal independence payment via a system so complicated it sets up the vulnerable to fail. “After my father’s collapse, my sister, a paramedic, was left to pick up the paperwork. Even though she has extensive knowledge of the system, she ended up with burnout, and had to take time off work.

“We’ve sat through meetings, only to be told Mum ‘doesn’t meet the criteria’. “This is a woman who needs 24/7 care. If my mum did not have us behind her, she wouldn’t be here any more. “She would have been robbed of her already shortened life. People are literally dying at the hands of the system.”

She says the family were so incensed by the PIP rules that they set up a petition to have them changed. It drew almost 4,000 signatures in weeks. “Most people were signing in disgust that this was even up for debate,” she says. The family did finally get some funding for carers.

Meantime, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said on TV last week that he was “inspired” by the UK’s carers – the same people our government gives a carer’s allowance of £67 a week to if they are unable to work full­-time because of their duties.

This allowance works out at less than 40p an hour. But once care provisions are funded, they take back the £67-a-week allowance. And if you can’t find a carer – and you’re left to continue to care for your loved one as well as doing your job – your funding can’t be paid to you, because you are family.

It simply sits there until you find someone willing to do the job. Kelly says: “If a husband wants to cherish that time with his wife instead of scrambling to pay bills, why not fund him as a carer?”

Matt Hancock claims to feel inspired and gives thanks for what they do. But Kelly says: “His words are merely hot air.” This year has shown us in monumental ways that change can happen when people come together.

So let’s urgently come together to fight the cause of these unsung champions.


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