Latest News & Information


On this page:

17 Sept - Does your child’s surname differ from yours?
17 Sept - The New Maintenance and Allocations contract run by CarillionAmey is coming!
16 Sept - AFF Press Release
11 Sept - Big Debate 2014: spotlight on employment
What does Army life mean to you? Share your views at AFF’s Big Debate
It pays to join the Army Reserve!
Provision of school buses in Cyprus
Army families give AFF the big picture
Great news for Army families living in their own home
Assisted Conception for the Armed Forces - give your feedback
Headline findings from the NEM Consultation
Armed Forces Covenant achievements celebrated
Good news for Service voters
Army families: funding is available for your child’s school!
No more routine pre move-out appointments
Struggling to get help to buy?
Army family, own home: the big issues
New Employment Model Myth Buster

 

Does your child’s surname differ from yours?

Concerns over child trafficking have led to new legislation giving UK Border Agency (UKBA) officers responsibility for checking that there is a genuine and legal link between the child and the parent/guardian where surnames differ. This is for both military and civilian flights.

If you are due to fly with your child, be aware that you may be asked about your relationship to them, especially if you have a different surname.

We recommend you carry a copy of your child’s birth certificate; without such evidence, the immigration officer may talk to both you and your child depending on their age, to satisfy them self of the relationship.

For more information, contact the Joint Booking Centre (JBC) – your soldier can do this on the Army intranet. Or contact our overseas director overseas@aff.org.uk for further information.  

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The New Maintenance and Allocations contract run by CarillionAmey is coming!

carillionamey logoThe new contract will start in Scotland and NI on 1st November 2014 and then in England and Wales on 1st December 2014

For the moment please continue to use the usual numbers you have – there will be lots of information coming out about the new contract in the next few weeks so please keep an eye out and make sure that you read everything so that you know what to expect. If you have any questions please contact the AFF Housing Specialist at housing@aff.org.uk.

Click here to download the information leaflet.

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AFF Press Release

The Army Families Federation (AFF) has hosted a successful reception at the Honourable Artillery Company headquarters, London, to recognise the important work we undertake with the MOD, wider government and private and third sector organisations. Amongst those present was AFF’s patron, HRH The Duchess of Gloucester, Secretary of State for Defence, Michael Fallon, Chief of the General Staff, General Sir Nick Carter, and the Children’s Commissioner for England, Dr Maggie Atkinson.  

The event, kindly sponsored by Skanska, gave AFF a chance to thank the broad range of organisations and people we work with. Catherine Spencer, AFF Chief Executive, shared a candid review of the impact of Army 2020, rebasing and redundancy on Army families.

Focussing on two key issues: affordable childcare supporting dual-serving parents and working spouses, and soldier’s pay - she stated that the nation’s commitment to Army families is “judged by the families by their standard of living,” adding that “increasing the stagnant pay packet must be the main effort.

AFF’s role in planning for the future Army is to scrutinise every initiative and continue to inform at all levels. Catherine reiterated that “we need to design the fabric of a society that we would wish to be part of,” - failure to do so will lead to retention issues. She also stressed the holistic nature of looking after Army families and clarified how AFF meets those needs at all levels and across a range of issues.

Covenant Signing Sept 2014 Thanking the military for their sincere commitment to maintaining dialogue with AFF, even when the evidence and requests run contrary to their own plans, she stressed the importance of the Armed Forces Covenant, the Community Covenant and the Corporate Covenant - essential in levelling the playing field and removing discrimination faced by Army families due to their commitment. She praised the work of our partners in all the local authorities we engage with, and thanked companies such as Barclays and HSBC for their commitment to understand the nature of Army life.

Catherine spoke of the potential of these Covenants, highlighting that more work needs to be done but announcing that AFF is engaging with this process in the most fundamental way, namely signing the Corporate Covenant.

AFF Director Communications, Beth Spencer, explains “It was a great privilege for AFF to have the Secretary of State for Defence signing the Corporate Covenant with our Chief Executive. For us it signalled a firm commitment that despite all the pressing issues of government, Army families remain on the radar at the highest level.”

This success now leads us towards the Big Debate next month when the focus will be very much on families; however, it is reassuring to know that the issues raised at our biennial conference can be taken higher to key figures who have shown by attending this event that they understand the place of Army families within the community.

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Big Debate 2014: spotlight on employment

spotlight on employmentIt’s almost time for the Big Debate 2014, and the Army Families Federation (AFF) has the spotlight firmly focussed on spouse employment.

What’s your question?
I’m an Army spouse looking for a job, how do I know which employers are supportive of the Army life?
I want to start my own business, where do I start?
My CV needs improving, what training can I access?
Is gaining further academic qualifications going to make a difference when I’m ready to go back to work?  

The Big Debate is centred on all of these issues this year, with a jobs-fair full of useful stands from companies such as Skanska, HSBC, Serco and Enterprise Rent-a-Car. Keen to explore training opportunities then Cranfield University, SORTED and RBLI Lifeworks are on hand or testing the water then visit Brook Street Recruitment Agents. Don’t miss our employment question and answer session during the morning of the event covering topics such as boosting your confidence, working hours, childcare and training opportunities; take the opportunity to put your questions to our expert panel featuring X Forces and Barclays.

Not sure what’s right for you? Come and listen to a motivational speech by Ren Kapur who knows what it’s like to struggle to find your identity whilst juggling a young family. By 20 she had two children but also began a new life as a business woman. Inspired by a passion for creating ‘opportunity’ for others she has worked with young people and now helps military personnel and spouses to make their innovative ideas a reality.

We’re for families
AFF is working hard to put spouses in the spotlight.

Building on our aim of breaking down barriers to employment, this year we are delighted to announce the first winner of AFF’s Employer of the Year Award. This prestigious award raises awareness of the many hurdles spouses face - the award will go to an employer who has taken into account the effect on Army spouses of frequent moves, childcare responsibilities and a fractured work history.

Watch this space to find out who our winner is. The Award will be presented, 21 October at the Institute of Education, London – the main event runs from 10:30am to 4:30pm with early-bird specialist surgeries from 9:30am; Caroline Mayne our Employment, Training and Money specialist will be there.

Join Us
Free to attend, but priceless for your career - visit the Big Debate webpage for details or to register.

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What does Army life mean to you? Share your views at AFF’s Big Debate

AFF Big Debate logo“A life of ups and downs, trials and tribulations, lifetime friends and loneliness - all because I fell in love with a soldier” AFF Facebook follower 

The Army Families Federation (AFF) is holding our Big Debate on 21 October and we want to see as many Army families there as possible!

If you have a husband, wife or partner who is in the Army, this free one-day event is for you. Come and get together with others affected by the same issues and concerns as you; whether you love or loathe being ‘married to the Army’, AFF wants to hear what you think and what Army life means for you and your family.

You tell us

AFF recently asked our Facebook followers ‘What does Army life mean to you?’ More than 50 comments were posted, with many people mentioning loneliness and separation, unpredictability and frustration and a sense of losing their own identity.

“Never being viewed as anything more than a dependant” said one follower, and “welcome to a life of being married to a soldier, but living as a single parent” said another.

Others focused on the positives of great friendships, opportunities for travel, visiting new places and the sense of community they have experienced. One lady told us: “Not easy but when you do have the time together it’s priceless and worth every countdown chart going!”

Got a question?

At the Big Debate you will be able to ask questions and get answers from senior military personnel, or just talk to AFF specialists and other AFF staff face to face. This is your chance to voice your concerns about Army life loud and clear so we can help to resolve your problems and push for policy changes.

Jobs fair

Are you looking to get back to work? Perhaps you want to access training to improve your skills? With a special focus on employment this year, the Big Debate is also hosting a jobs fair full of stands with advice, information and job vacancies across the UK from companies that are Armed Forces friendly including Skanska, HSBC and ASDA. One follower told us that Army life meant: “being ‘just a wife’” – here is your opportunity to find out what training and job opportunities are out there for people just like you. Can you afford to miss it?

Early bird surgeries with AFF Specialists start from 09.30am, with the main event taking place from 10.30am – 4.30pm, at the Institute of Education, 20 Bedford Way, London WC1H 0AL. Register now to secure your place - AFF Big Debate  

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It pays to join the Army Reserve!

If you’re ex-Forces and unsure about your next career move, why not consider the Army Reserve? 

What’s in it for me?
As part of the MOD’s plan to increase the number of Army Reserve soldiers, the Reserves Commitment Bonus is a financial incentive offered to people like you, with a similar incentive being offered to those who have never served with the Regular Army, to encourage you to consider the Army Reserve when taking the next step in your career.

How much could I receive?
Eligible ex-Regular soldiers, with the rank of Captain or below, who join the Army Reserve can receive a Commitment Bonus of up to 10,000 over four payments.

Those who have never served with the Regular Army will receive up to 2,300 over three payments.

All sums are subject to tax and National Insurance and are in addition to the tax-free Training Bounty payments which you may also qualify for.

Already joined? Not a problem - payments can be back dated to 1 January 2014.

Want to know more?
For more details and to find out if you’re eligible, click here to visit the Army website.

Join in the Big Debate
Worried about the impact on your family if you join the Army Reserve?

AFF’s Big Debate takes place 21 October in London and is the perfect opportunity for you to come and share your concerns, raise your questions and get the answers you need. 

AFF works hard to support all Army families, included the families of Army Reserve soldiers. Come along and see what we can do for you.

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Provision of school buses in Cyprus

It was recently announced that a review into the provision of transport across Cyprus would be undertaken; the first phase of this review, which focussed on school buses, is now complete.

How will the transport review affect your child?
A number of proposals were made, and endorsed by Chief of Staff British Forces Cyprus, Air Commodore A D Huggett. These included:

  • Akrotiri - the external bus to St John’s secondary school will continue but all other internal buses will be removed from the schedule
  • Episkopi - a bus service will continue to be provided from North & South Paramali but all other buses will be removed from the schedule
  • Dhekelia - buses will be provided for primary school children for return home journeys in Jun, Jul and Sep only and all other buses will be removed from the schedule
  • Ayios Nikolaos - the external bus to King Richard’s secondary school in Dhekelia will continue
  • Nicosia - the external bus to King Richard’s secondary school in Dhekelia will continue

The proposed implementation of these changes is not until January 2015; however, Air Commodore Huggett has made clear that road safety measures and improvements to infrastructure must first be made.

AFF View
AFF is very keen to engage with the review process and promote further consultation on the proposed changes to the provision of school transport within British Forces Cyprus.

Whilst it is recognised that there is often a need for change due to budget restrictions, our role is to ensure that all concerns and comments made by families are heard by the chain of command as the review process moves into the implementation phase and there is still some scope to influence local priorities.

AFF was delighted to be recognised as the voice of the Army families in the letter that was issued by the Chief of Staff and we urge all families to continue to give us your feedback, both positive and negative, on the proposed changes via email direct to the local AFF Co-ordinators.

Families’ concerns
AFF is continually seeking feedback and receiving enquiries from Army families around the world, and Cyprus is no exception.

Your experiences make up our quarterly Families’ Concerns report which is distributed to key figure heads and decision makers to help inform policy change and improve Army life for you, the families.

Family briefs are planned for this autumn. However, in the meantime, if you have any concerns, contact your local co-ordinator in Cyprus: esba@aff.org.uk for Dhekelia, Ayios Nikolaos and Nicosia or wsba@aff.org.uk for Akrotiri and Episkopi.

To view the full letter to families sent by Air Commodore Huggett, click here.  

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Army families give AFF the big picture

Results of Big survey are inThe Army Families Federation (AFF) recently conducted our annual Big Survey – collating the facts about the Army lifestyle as experienced by Army families.

This year the survey looked at the ‘big picture’ – covering all aspects of Army life; over 2,600 people took part from around the world.

What did we discover?
With the drawdown from Germany already underway, a number of concerns were raised – not surprisingly housing and schools were the most prevalent; however, spouse employment was also highlighted as a worry.

Although spouse employment is hard for the military to plan for, it must be recognised as a key factor in retention; AFF has been working to promote this.

AFF’s Germany branch is hosting a number of roadshows this autumn for families in BFG going through this period of transition to ask their questions and allay their worries.

Money talk
With the rise in cost of living, and prolonged Army pay freezes, 46% of families are worse off than they were two years ago.

Once again, spouse employment was perceived to be one of the core reasons for this with 64% of families experiencing financial issues without a second income; the future Army can’t be shaped on a single income.

The main factor affecting the spouse’s ability to secure employment was their soldier’s lengthy or unpredictable working hours (75%), but frequent moves (66%) and their soldier being away so much (65%) also played a part.

Going it alone
72% of those in their own home didn’t feel they received adequate welfare support from the Army. This must be rectified if the Army is to positively promote ‘living in your own home’ as part of the New Employment Model (NEM) - 47% of families are considering purchasing a home in the next 3 years.

AFF recently commissioned a report on geographically dispersed families, looking at both the benefits and drawbacks of Army families choosing to live in their own home. When the report is finalised AFF will use the information to inform policy making.

AFF comment
The needs of the Army must be balanced against a sustainable family unit.

Provision of heavily subsidised housing is still an essential part of the remuneration package for many; a significant proportion cannot afford to live in their own home.

AFF continues to promote the importance of spouse employment and the positive effects it can have on the various aspects of the Army family lifestyle whether soldiers are Regular, Reserve or living in their own home.

Big Debate
AFF’s Big Debate takes place on 21 October and this year there is a special focus on spouse employment. With a plethora of employment and training stands present, and companies such as Skanska and HSBC in attendance, we strongly urge Army spouses to register to come along – CV in hand – and take the first step to shaping your future.  

arrowClick here to download the results brief.

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Great news for Army families living in their own home

AFF in ActionJust because you’re an Army family living in your own home, doesn’t mean you should receive a raw deal when it comes to MOD allowances – right?

You told AFF

Earlier this year AFF was contacted by a family living in their own home who’d tried to claim Concessionary Travel for Families (CTF) allowance whilst their soldier was deployed, only to be told that CTF was only for involuntary separated families and not for families living in their own home (voluntary separated).

Fighting your corner 

We put AFF Employment Training Allowances and Money Specialist, Caroline Mayne, on the case and argued that it’s wrong to assume that such families are able to receive support from their wider family and that a deployment should be regarded as being involuntary separated.

We are delighted to announce that the MOD has agreed, and that the policy has been changed to ensure that families living in their own home will now be able to claim CTF while their soldier is deployed.

You can make a difference

Your opinion matters, your voice counts!

AFF’s Big Debate takes place 21 October in London; there has never been a better time to have your say.

For full details, visit the AFF Big Debate page - together we can make a difference for Army families. 

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Assisted Conception for the Armed Forces - give your feedback

In November 2013 NHS England released the Interim Clinical Commissioning Policy: Assisted Conception for the Armed Forces, which means that if you meet the treatment criteria you will be eligible for two cycles of NHS funded IVF or other assisted conception treatments wherever you live in England.

AFF and NHS England would really like some feedback from any couples that have successfully (or not) used this policy to access treatment. If you would like to give some feedback please contact Karen Ross, AFF Health & Additional Needs Specialist at additonalneeds@aff.org.uk.

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Headline findings from the NEM Consultation

The New Employment Model (NEM) is the Ministry of Defence’s most thorough review of Service personnel terms and conditions of service (career structures, pay, accommodation, training, etc.) in a generation. Over the last six months, they have consulted with Service personnel and tackled issues such as overseas postings, supporting partner employment and buying your own home. Over 12,000 Service personnel participated in the consultation. Click here to find out the results. 

AFF is currently reviewing the content of this report and will report back.

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Armed Forces Covenant achievements celebrated

The Prime Minister hosted his annual Armed Forces reception on 17 July, marking several important Armed Forces Covenant achievements. 

AFF is delighted to see that all local authorities across Great Britain have now signed up to the Community Covenant - a great commitment to supporting the Armed Forces in local communities.

The Community Covenant will enable us to continue highlighting the unique nature of Army family life and the issues that matter locally to you, including housing, education, employment and childcare.

In good company

200 organisations have now signed up to the Corporate Covenant. The Corporate Covenant allows companies to pledge to support the employment of Service leavers, Reservists and spouses; additionally, companies can make specific commitments related to their business.

Tell AFF the difficulties you face accessing commercial services due to the Army lifestyle and we will ensure these are highlighted.

For the full list of organisations that have signed the Corporate Covenant and details of their pledges, visit the gov.uk website.

Funds for veterans

The Prime Minister also announced the first eight projects to receive funding from the 40 million Veterans Accommodation Fund, part of the LIBOR fine money made available to Armed Forces organisations and charities; five projects support accommodation for wounded and injured personnel and three support care home accommodation for veterans.

For full details of the successful projects, visit the gov.uk website.

AFF view

The Armed Forces Covenant is producing some positive cultural change and is beginning to improve policy in areas where families and Service personnel are disadvantaged. We have seen advances in the services being offered to families in areas such as education and health; however, there is still much to be done.

Increased communication and co-operation between government departments is vital to enabling better access to services.

The New Employment Model element of the Armed Forces Covenant will take some time to deliver on its promise of increased stability, and will continue to struggle to provide predictability.

Until pay recovers to pre-pay-freeze levels, soldiers and their families will continue to question whether the covenant is working. Soldiers judge the value the government places on them by their disposable income and their standard of living and thus pay is a major component in retention.

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Good news for Service voters

Ballot envelopeIs your family currently posted overseas? 

Did you know, you can register as a Service voter for five years at a fixed address in the UK even if you move around; this may be particularly useful if you are based overseas or think you may be posted overseas in the next few years.

Why not post your vote?

In the past, the short period of time given to send and receive voting paperwork has meant that postal votes were not always received in time to be counted.

Now, due to a Parliamentary Bill passed earlier this year, it is easier for Service personnel and families living overseas to vote in elections.

Ballot papers will be sent out earlier to postal voters before the poll closes; this means you will have more time to ensure your vote is counted.

Mixed message

The MOD is currently advising Service personnel and families posted overseas/on operations to appoint a proxy to remove any doubt about whether there is enough time to receive and return their postal ballot before the polls close; this is until it is clear how much earlier the ballot papers are actually being dispatched.

If you are currently posted overseas then find out about becoming a Service voter at www.aboutmyvote.co.uk/register_to_vote/armed_forces

AFF View:

The extra time for Service voters will certainly help; however, AFF believes that a move away from proxy voting is preferable as many personnel do not have someone who they can rely on to vote for them. AFF has received evidence of several Service personnel who have discovered that, after years of overseas posting, their proxy has voted in the opposite manner to their request.

We welcome this change but remain concerned that proxy voting does not offer a good solution.

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Army families: funding is available for your child’s school!

school fundingFunding is now available for schools with children from Regular and Reserve Forces families. Why not encourage your child’s school to apply?

The MOD Education Support Fund aims to help schools support children coping with exceptional mobility and/or deployment, including settling into new schools.

All publicly funded schools - state schools, academies, free schools, 6th form colleges and/or local authorities on behalf of schools - can apply; 15m has already been awarded to schools across the UK!

For a grant application pack and more details, including where to send completed applications, click here.

The deadline for submission is 4pm on 30 September.

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No more routine pre move-out appointments

DIO has announced that, as from 14 July, they are no longer accepting routine requests for pre move-out appointments.

This will allow staff to focus on move-in and move-out appointments at their busiest time of year; existing appointments are not affected.

No change to move-out requirements 

You can still access the documents usually provided at the time of the pre move-out appointment from the GOV.uk website

It gives guidance on reinstating the condition of the property, if you have made changes, and can help you prepare the property to the correct standard for move-out.

Really concerned?

This is a short term temporary measure. If you feel particularly anxious about your move-out please email the Housing Allocations Service Centre (HASC) to see if they can make an exception for you and arrange a pre move-out. Please use the correct team email address available on the HASC map to request an appointment ensuring you include the full details of your SFA address and a contact telephone number.

Share your experience

If you have any issues with getting a pre move-out booked, or if you feel that the lack of a pre move-out has impacted on your subsequent move-out by resulting in charges, contact Cat Calder, AFF Housing Specialist, at housing@aff.org.uk

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Struggling to get help to buy?

AFF has had a number of queries from Army families regarding mortgage lenders not being signed up to the Forces Help to Buy (FHTB) scheme.

As a result of your feedback, we have approached the MOD to ask if they are able to confirm which lenders are on board.

Unfortunately the MOD is unable to do this as they understandably can’t be seen to be endorsing specific companies; however, they have guaranteed that most major high street lenders are on board.

AFF InvestigatesAFF investigates
Without a list from the MOD, AFF is contacting numerous mortgage lenders on your behalf with the aim of providing you with a list of participating companies …. We’ll let you know as soon as it’s compiled.

Don’t give up 
With this in mind, we encourage families (who are eligible for the scheme and also for a mortgage) to keep pushing major lenders as it may just be that staff in your local branch might not be aware of the scheme.

If you encounter resistance from the branch, urge them to contact their central office as, according to the MOD, they should be aware of the scheme.

Let us know
If you come across a lender who says they are unaware of the FHTB scheme then please let AFF know, or you can email the FHTB team direct at perstrg-NEM-Mailbox@mod.uk

With your feedback and experiences, the MOD can then work with the Council of Mortgage Lenders to identify why the scheme is not being taken up.

For more information about the FHTB scheme, please visit www.gov.uk/forces-help-to-buy  

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Army family, own home: the big issues

AFF recently commissioned a report to help us learn more about the reasons Army families choose to live unaccompanied in their own home, and the challenges or benefits this brings.

Families like yours?  

The families included in this report had all made the move from SFA. In-depth interviews were conducted and themes such as loss of identity, poor communication and feeling under-resourced as a parent when the serving spouse is away, were all identified.

The report makes a number of recommendations including developing a Contact Pack with useful information on relevant supportive networks, more invitations for the spouse to attend events on base and standardising the military welfare support system.

Read the full report HERE and get the full story of what we discovered. 

Stay in touch  

If you are a military spouse living in your own home, check out www.aff.org.uk for information on events, policy changes and latest info.

Subscribe to Army&You, AFF’s FREE quarterly magazine for news and real-life stories of military families like yours – not to mention a whole host of competitions! Subscribe today at www.armyandyou.co.uk  

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New Employment Model Myth Buster

The current employment model dates back to the 1970s. Some aspects are still very good and need to be protected however, other aspects have failed to keep pace with the way in which our people live their lives in the 21st Century. The New Employment Model (NEM) will be designed to ensure a package of terms and conditions that are affordable, agile and attractive, keeping what works but getting rid of the more outdated aspects of the old package.

On a financial front, significantly discounted accommodation will remain a core part of the ‘offer’ to Service personnel and the Armed Forces Pension Scheme 15 will still be one of the best available anywhere. Our high standard of training and education, and the quality of our welfare support will also be retained.However, to keep pace with the aspirations of the young people we need to recruit in the future we also need to examine the impact of Service life on families and the ability for spouses and partners to pursue their own careers. 

In June the department launched a programme of consultation and engagement with Service personnel which will run until October. Feedback from the consultation will be used to shape the detailed policy development of the various components of the NEM. So far there has been a fantastic volume of responses to the online survey already and some extremely helpful feedback has been gathered during focus groups and interviews. But there has also been a number of commonly repeated misconceptions about some of the changes or perceived problems that the NEM will bring about and so this week we aim to address some of those myths.

Click here to download the Myths and comments.

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