Sharon Hodgson MP

Working hard for Washington and Sunderland West.

News Highlights

Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or by going to the Sunderland Echo website. 

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Supporting children in their formative years has always been a passion of mine and an area which I have helped push during my time as an MP.

Yet recent analysis by Labour has shown that under the Tories we have seen £500 million cut from the Early Intervention Grant since 2013, with a projected £183 million more to be cut by 2020.

This represents a total cut of 40 per cent between 2013 and 2020.

Early intervention saves society a lot more than intervening at a later stage when support can be less effective.

It can ensure that children’s lives are improved and they have the opportunity to achieve all that they can. This is not being seen under the Tories, despite their rhetoric of being champions of social mobility.

If they were serious about improving the lives of children, then they wouldn’t be cutting off the vital funding necessary to achieving it.

The Government has a track record of putting the opportunities of children at risk with no consideration for their futures.

Firstly, we have seen one in three Sure Start Centres close across the country.

Secondly, we have seen the Government determined to scrap Universal Infant Free School Meals on two occasions now (2015 and 2017), which thanks to campaigners and parents we have seen saved for now.

Or, thirdly, the current worries regarding the roll-out of Universal Credit and the impact this will have on free school meals, where under proposals on the future of free school meals currently under consultation, the Children’s Society have estimated that one million children living in poverty may miss out on this important intervention.

Labour have always championed improving services for children and families, and will continue to hold this Government to account on their actions as they cut these services to the bone and provide an alternative approach that allows all children, no matter their background or circumstances, to flourish.

ECHO COLUMN: Tory Government has no consideration for children's futures

Read Sharon's latest Sunderland Echo column below or by going to the Sunderland Echo website.  Supporting children in their formative years has always been a passion of mine and an...

Sharon receives further response from Rolton Kilbride. Click on image to download.

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Click on above image to download.

Sharon receives further response from Rolton Kilbride - 13th Dec, 2017

Sharon receives further response from Rolton Kilbride. Click on image to download. Click on above image to download. Read more

Sharon has joined Kevan Jones, MP for North Durham, in hitting out at the Government for attempting to mask the Government’s lack of a plan to invest in the North East’s transport infrastructure.

In a letter sent to all Members of Parliament on 12th December, Transport Secretary Chris Grayling suggested that the “Northern regions” of England would receive £1,039 per head in planned transport infrastructure spending to the year 2021, which is £13 more than London’s £1,026,

But, on closer inspection, it appears that the Transport Secretary deliberately grouped the North East together with the North West to make the Government’s transport spend look higher.

An analysis of the Government’s transport spending plans, which informed the letter, reveals that planned transport spending in the North East is currently only £822, compared to £1,353 for the North West.  Instead of providing a real figure for each of the north’s separated regions, Mr Grayling’s letter simply provided an average, giving the impression that transport funding is equally spread throughout England.  The planned spend per head in Yorkshire and Humber currently sits at £726.

Commenting on the Transport Secretary’s letter, Sharon said:

“It is shocking that the Transport Secretary has fudged his figures to put a positive spin on the transport infrastructure spend for the North East. Clearly, he believed he could pull the wool over the eyes of the regions MPs and the people of the North East; however, he has failed in doing so.

“The North East deserves the right levels of transport funding to unlock much-needed economic growth and ensure that there is a level playing field when it comes to how infrastructure spending is allocated across the country, and not have a Government who mask the damning reality of their failed approach to regional growth.”

Commenting on the Transport Secretary’s letter, Kevan Jones, MP for North Durham, said:

“This kind of creative accounting on the part of the Transport Secretary serves only to draw attention to the Government’s lack of planned transport spending in the North East.

“In reality, it’s clear the Government is failing to provide adequate funding for transport infrastructure in our region whilst at the same time pumping billions into London and projects like HS2.”

You can read the letter to MPs from Chris Grayling here: Letter to MPs from Transport Secretary, Chris Grayling

Planned Central Government transport capital spending per head across regions

Claimed spending by Chris Grayling by ‘regions’

Northern Regions (North West, North East, Yorkshire and Humber) £1,039 per head

Middle regions (East of England, East Midlands and West Midlands) £1,076 per head

Southern regions (London, South East and South West) £1,029 per head

Investment per person (£, 2016/17 prices)

East Midlands £946                                    

East of England £994                                

London £1,026                                          

North East £822

North West £1,353

South East £1,139

South West £851

West Midlands £1,269

Yorkshire and the Humber £726

Sharon hits out as misleading figures on transport infrastructure spending by Transport Secretary

Sharon has joined Kevan Jones, MP for North Durham, in hitting out at the Government for attempting to mask the Government’s lack of a plan to invest in the North...

As Shadow Minister for Public Health, Sharon spoke on behalf of the Opposition in a debate on mental health within the Autism community. In her speech, Sharon raised concerning figures regarding mental health for autistic people and what more needs to be done by the Government to address these matters. 

You can read the full debate here: Autism and Mental Health Backbench Business Debate 30.11.17

You can read Sharon's speech below

Mrs Sharon Hodgson (Washington and Sunderland West) (Lab)

I congratulate the hon. Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow (Dr Cameron) and others on securing this important debate and on her excellent opening speech.

I thank Autistica, the National Autistic Society and Ambitious about Autism for the important work that they do and the support that they provide for people living with autism.This is our second debate on autism since our return from the summer recess and it is good that it has been so constructive. I also thank all other hon. Members here for their excellent and passionate speeches. The hon. Members for Berwick-upon-Tweed (Mrs Trevelyan), for Bexhill and Battle (Huw Merriman) and for North Ayrshire and Arran (Patricia Gibson), and my hon. Friends the Members for Bristol West (Thangam Debbonaire), for Blaydon (Liz Twist) and for North Durham (Mr Jones), all spoke movingly, often from personal family experience or about constituents. This debate may have been short, but it has none the less been very powerful.

It is important to say that autism is not a mental health condition: it is possible to have both autism and good mental health, but that is not always the case, as we have heard. Between 70% and 80% of autistic people develop mental health problems such as anxiety and depression, and four out of 10 children with autism have at least two mental health problems.

Adults with autism who do not have a learning disability are nine times more likely to die by suicide than the general population; those with a learning disability are still twice as likely to take their own lives. Clearly, more needs to be done to support the mental health needs of people living with autism. Reducing the health inequalities experienced by people living with autism is a priority for the NHS mandate for 2017-18, and that is welcome. Mental ill health is a major contributory factor to health inequality for people with autism. Ensuring access to appropriate mental health care is important in the fight to tackle these disparities.

However, there are too often significant barriers to accessing the right treatment. In a debate in September, we talked about waiting times for autism diagnosis—it is a scandal that those can be as long as 125 weeks. Accessing a diagnosis is the first step towards securing the support that people living with autism need, and that is also true for mental health support. We are pleased that data on autism diagnosis waiting times is going to be collected and published from April 2018; hopefully, it will help to drive an improvement in this area.

Today, I want to focus on how mental health services can be improved for people living with autism. Last week, my hon. Friend the Member for Stockton South (Dr Williams) told the Health Committee about T, a young boy with autism. As we heard from the hon. Member for East Kilbride, Strathaven and Lesmahagow, T was rejected four times for treatment by child and adolescent mental health services, despite reporting suicidal thoughts and having a family history of suicide. He was rejected because he had not yet attempted to take his own life.

The Children’s Commissioner for England confirmed concerns about the issue when she stated to the Health Committee that this type of situation was now “the norm” within children’s mental health services. That is worrying generally for children’s wellbeing, but for those living with autism it is particularly so, for a number of reasons. Experiences of suicide are different in the autism community from those in the wider population; relying on certain behaviours and expectations of what someone in need of support will look like can be dangerous.

As the Children’s Commissioner put it, children with mental health problems will become adults with mental health problems very soon. We cannot continue to miss opportunities to intervene early. That means, sadly, that T’s experience is just one of many. The five year forward view for mental health recommended that NHS England develop autism-specific mental health care pathways, but there is currently no information on the timetable, the scope of the pathway or who will be leading the issue. The pathway should cover children, young people and adults on the autism spectrum. It should take into account the fact that mental health conditions can present themselves in different ways for people with autism and it should recognise that mental health treatment may need to be tailored for people with autism. I hope the Minister will reflect on that in her response. Will she tell the House when and how the pathways will be developed?

Early intervention and prevention should form the basis of our mental health services. However, too often specific issues make it difficult for people with autism to access that early support that is so vital. The first point of call for many people experiencing mental health problems is their GP; for many people with autism that can be difficult, as GP surgeries are often not autism-friendly. This is how one autistic adult described their experience:

“When anxiety is really bad I start to feel a panic attack at the prospect of just having to step out of my front door. So having to go to the GP is like having to climb Everest.”

It is important that GPs understand that every autistic person is different, and that each person may need some adjustments to be made before he or she can feel comfortable about attending the local GP’s surgery. For example, some autistic people may be hypersensitive to sound and light and may therefore need an appointment at a quieter time of day, while others may be hyposensitive and benefit from a more stimulating environment. GPs may also need to tailor the way in which they communicate with patients—for instance, using clear language, or finding ways of communicating with somebody who does not speak. To do that, GPs must be able to access detailed and accurate records about their patients’ needs. Currently GPs often do not record much information about their autistic patients, and may not even record that a person is autistic at all.

In August, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence recommended that GPs keep a set of local autism registers similar to those kept for people with learning disabilities, asthma and diabetes. Will the Minister tell us when she expects the NICE recommendations on autism GP registers to be adopted, and whether NHS England will work to ensure that the data gathered is used to inform better commissioning of autism and mental health services?

We have heard powerful accounts today from Members on both sides of the House about what happens when we get mental health treatment wrong. It is all too easy for people with autism to receive inappropriate mental health treatment, or to be blocked altogether from access to treatment. As the Government review the Mental Health Act 1983, it is important that they consider everything that has been raised in today’s debate and ensure that autistic people are supported. The shocking suicide statistics and testimonies from Members today show starkly how crucial it is that more is done on the issue, and the power is in the Minister’s hands. I hope that she has listened and will act.

Autism and Mental Health Backbench Business Debate 30.11.17

As Shadow Minister for Public Health, Sharon spoke on behalf of the Opposition in a debate on mental health within the Autism community. In her speech, Sharon raised concerning figures...

Sharon responds to constituents asking her to sign Early Day Motion 581 calling for a moratorium on waste incinerators. 

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SHARON RESPONDS TO CONSTITUENTS ASKING HER TO SIGN EDM 581 ON A MORATORIUM ON WASTE INCINERATORS

Sharon responds to constituents asking her to sign Early Day Motion 581 calling for a moratorium on waste incinerators.    Read more

Sharon has presented Julian Atkinson of JC Atkinson with the All-Party Parliamentary Corporate Responsibility Group’s Constituency Responsible Business Champion nomination award.

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Each year, MPs are asked to nominate a local business to be their Constituency Responsible Business Champion for the year, which then go on to be shortlisted for the top award of Responsible Business Champion of the year. JC Atkinson did not get shortlisted, however they have been presented with a nomination award as Sharon’s Responsible Business Champion for 2017.  

This year Sharon recognised the long-standing work of JC Atkinson in providing an unrivalled service of manufacturing environmentally-friendly coffins and caskets built in Washington and exported across the world.

JC Atkinson has a track record of winning awards for their environmental work, alongside their community work which ranges from regional to national recognition and can now include the award of Responsible Business Champion.

The company also provided the environmentally-friendly coffin for Jo Cox, the former MP for Batley and Spen, who was tragically killed last year.

In recent months, Julian Atkinson and his team at JC Atkinson have been raising awareness and vital funds for coffin makers affected by the catastrophic floods in Bangladesh who they work with closely to provide people with environmentally-friendly coffins.

Currently, JC Atkinson have raised a total of £2,775 for the Bangladeshi coffin makers and people can donate to this cause and find out more by following this link to their Just Giving page: https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/jcatkinson?ct=t(Just_Giving_Donation9_1_2017)

Following the presentation of the nomination award, Sharon said:

“It was an absolute honour to present Julian and his hardworking team at JC Atkinson with this nomination award which recognises the important work they do to provide people with alternative and environmentally-friendly coffins. This is a success across the world and just goes to show how impressive this company is when it is leading the way in this market.

“Yet, it was not just being a successful business that caught my eye, but also JC Atkinson important socially responsible work both here in the UK and across the world; most recently shown through their fundraising to help Bangladeshi coffin makers affected by the catastrophic floods that hit the country earlier this year.

“I’m delighted to have presented Julian and his team at JC Atkinson with this nomination and hope that they will be considered for the top prize in the future. They are a true local success story and I am proud to have them based here in Washington and Sunderland West.”  

Julian Atkinson, Managing Director of JC Atkinson, said:

“It is always great when our effort is recognised by others, been nominated for the award by Sharron Hodgson MP is an honour, we have all worked hard over many years to evolve the company which has a proven lowed environmental impact on our planet. We have a great story to tell and having this recognition helps with this, we have a great story to tell, this helps us win work and create jobs in Washington, team JC Atkinson are very proud to be nominated.”

SHARON PRESENTS JC ATKINSON WITH CONSTITUENCY RESPONSIBLE BUSINESS CHAMPIONS NOMINATION AWARD

Sharon has presented Julian Atkinson of JC Atkinson with the All-Party Parliamentary Corporate Responsibility Group’s Constituency Responsible Business Champion nomination award. Each year, MPs are asked to nominate a local...

Following her letter to Sunderland City Council on 1st November, registering her objection to the proposed Rolton Kilbride Gasification plant in Washington, Sharon received a response from Mr Andrew Needham, the Managing Director of Rolton Kilbride,

Scanned letter

which can also be read here via this link Rolton Kilbride letter to Sharon Hodgson MP >

Sharon writes further letter to Rolton Kilbride

Following her letter to Sunderland City Council on 1st November, registering her objection to the proposed Rolton Kilbride Gasification plant in Washington, Sharon received a response from Mr Andrew Needham,... Read more

Sharon recently visited Barmston Village Primary School, alongside Neil McOnie, Chair of Washington Rotary Club, to talk about her role as the Member of Parliament for Washington and Sunderland West and to meet Barmston Primary’s newly elected Parliament.

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Recently, Barmston elected their Prime Minister, Deputy Prime Minister, Chancellor, Welfare Minister, Economy and Finance Minister and a Minister for individual school subjects. The elected pupils will be the collective voice of the pupils and will raise matters with teachers and the Senior Leadership Team, where necessary.

As part of her visit, Sharon spoke to the main assembly about her role as their local Member of Parliament and how she goes about her duties representing all of the people of Washington and Sunderland West and then broke off into a session to discuss in detail with the school’s Parliament about their duties, what they have done so far since they were all elected and what they hope to get out of the experience.

Following the visit, Sharon said:

“It was lovely to visit Barmston Primary School with Neil McOnie to talk to the children about my role as their local MP. They asked many pertinent and probing questions – I am sure some of them will be budding politicians in the future.” 

More photos below

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SHARON VISITS BARMSTON PRIMARY SCHOOL AND MEETS THE SCHOOL'S PARLIAMENT

Sharon recently visited Barmston Village Primary School, alongside Neil McOnie, Chair of Washington Rotary Club, to talk about her role as the Member of Parliament for Washington and Sunderland West...

Sharon was invited along to speak at the Socialist Health Association's conference on Public Health Priorities where she outlined the policy direction the Labour Party was taking when it came to public health issues. 

You can read Sharon's speech below.

CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY

Thank you for inviting me to come speak to you today.

It is always an absolute pleasure to speak at a SHA event – this being my third in the year that I have been Labour’s Shadow Minister for Public Health.

It is wonderful to be with so many like-minded people who are committed to improving people’s health and ensuring that prevention is a key cornerstone of our approach to public policy.

I know you have an incredibly packed agenda with many excellent speakers, so I won’t be keeping you for too long.

But in my contribution to today’s discussions I want to set out Labour’s approach to public health and how all of you can help shape and contribute to the policy development as we move forward in this Parliament, and to the next General Election – whenever that may be.

That said, Labour are ready to take on the task of addressing the challenges we see when it comes to the public’s health.

I can commit to you today that whenever the public give us the opportunity to govern, Labour will be ready to get on with the task at hand of reversing the damage inflicted after seven years of Tory rule.

For Labour, our clear aim is to champion better public health services across the country which tackle the entrenched health inequalities that have been all too often ignored, tackling the permeation of ill-health that cripples our communities and ensuring our NHS has the right level of funding and resources so it is fighting fit for the future.

Under the Tories all of this has been ignored and failed. It cannot go on any longer.

Specifically, when it comes to public health, I have identified what I believe to be a “public health crisis”.

This is not about scaremongering or blustering; it is seeing what the Tories have done to our NHS and wider health services and having the understanding that their actions have consequences which put our nation’s health in jeopardy.

We all know the facts – by 2021, £800 million will have been siphoned away from public health services and this has had an unimaginable impact on services in our local communities which have stalled the improvement of health we so desperately need.

It isn’t just Labour who have recognised these concerns, but the likes of The King’s Fund, who earlier this year, analysed DCLG data on local spending priorities for public health and found that the prognosis was not good.

Their analysis identified that local authorities would be spending on average 5% less on public health initiatives than in 2014 with some of the worst hit services being sexual health promotion and prevention along with wider tobacco control which both see devastating cuts of more than 30%.

The King’s Funds’ conclusion is one that I completely agree with. They said:

“… there is little doubt that we are now entering the realms of real reductions in public health services. This is a direct result of the reduced priority that central government gives to public health.”

The idea of reduced priority isn’t one without basis. If we look at NHS England’s Five Year Forward View update report compared to the document published in 2014, public health has seen a clear downgrade from “a radical upgrade” to one deemed to be no more than an efficiency saving exercise in the 10-point efficiency plan.

Whilst efficiencies can always be found to improve outcomes and results, they categorically should never be done to the detriment of our health.

Since 2013, when public health was moved from central government to local authorities, it was welcome to see a more localised approach to addressing health needs – as we all too often know that health inequalities can be local and must be addressed by those who know their communities the best rather than faceless civil servants at their Whitehall desks.

Yet as the planning, commissioning and procurement of these services was devolved they were met with eye-watering cuts which left them struggling to ensure the new responsibilities they had acquired could be used effectively.

The icing on the cake, for those who believe passionately that improving public health should be done at a local level, was scrapped away when central government laid down these short-sighted cuts.

This has meant that services have had to fight to survive and maintain the standards that the public have come to expect, which in turn has led to the money needed to oil the wheels of innovation at a local level has not materialised.  

It is always important that innovation sits at the heart of public health so we can meet the health challenges of the day and ensure that we continue to move towards a society that is healthier and happier.

Whilst the local level has seen serious problems arise because of the Tories’ failures, there have also been concerns about action at a national population level too.

It is safe to say that delay, decisiveness and joining of the dots are lacking when it comes to national policy by Tory ministers.

We have seen an 18-month delayed Tobacco Control Plan finally published which failed to recognise that to provide the vision of smoke-free society set out in the Plan, that the Government must put their money where their mouth is to see it succeed.

The same can be said of the Home Office’s Drugs Strategy which failed to move on from its 2010 predecessor and ignored the significantly reduced funding envelope for prevention and treatment services we now have.

We also saw the PrEP Impact Trial continually delayed after the evidence has been abundantly clear that providing PrEP can revolutionise our approach to halting the spread of HIV in society.

Then there is the failure to address burgeoning issues such as lung diseases with what can only be described as disdain by ministers even considering the idea of a lung diseases strategy which could help co-ordinate action to improve outcomes for those blighted by these diseases, especially those in our most deprived communities.

The most perfect example of these failures by ministers was the Childhood Obesity Plan – published over a year ago now.

Though measures announced in the Plan two summers ago were, of course, to be welcomed and it is pleasing to see steady progress has been made when the Government published their update this summer, the Plan and the progress made have left us wanting.

We all know that obesity is one of the most burgeoning public health crisis facing our country right now and this Government have done the bare minimum so they can be seen as if they are acting on these worries. Labour won’t let this continue and we set out quite clearly how we would do this in our manifesto in June of this year with a radical approach to childhood health issues.

However, it is not only health issues specific to the brief which I shadow that this Government are failing on, but a whole host of policies which are damaging when it comes to our nation’s health.

The clear and most pronounced of these is: the growing prevalence of poverty in our society.

Poverty is not an inevitability of society but is in fact an inevitability of a failed society.

Through-out my parliamentary career, I have ensured that poverty is one of the key issues that I work on – may this have been through education or health matters.

It is what drives me in my work in Parliament as it is a damning indictment of any society to see poverty become so normalised that it is left to be ignored, especially in one of the richest countries in the world.

And it is what will drive me if I am ever honoured with the chance to be a minister in Government.

Poverty is a multi-faceted issue and realistically one fix will not address all of the causes of poverty, but the fact of the matter is, austerity is exacerbating the problems of poverty we see in our society.

Instead of putting their heads in the sand, it is high time that ministers got to task and addressed these issues head on.

Poverty has untold consequences on our society – may this be on education, life opportunities or on our health.

These matters cannot be ignored much longer and it is important that governments put the health of our nation first and to do that health must be considered in every action that is taken by a Government.

What I have set out is a sorry state of affairs which we find ourselves in due to the crippling policies of the Tories, but Labour is up to the task of reversing them.

We have heard it said often since the snap General Election in June, but Labour is a government-in-waiting and Labour’s Shadow Health team of myself, Jon as our Secretary of State and Barbara, Justin and Julie, are ready to work tirelessly to improving our nation’s health.

We have a track record on this. Take our June manifesto, where we set out in a comprehensive fashion a radical programme on public health and wider health and social care services.

I, for one, was incredibly proud of what we offered to the country. I may be a bit biased here but we offered hope and a true vision on what government should be doing around health.

But, as I said at the outset of my speech, we must continue to look forward – especially with another General Election forever looming over us with this shambolic government in office.

That is why I welcome these opportunities to meet with you all and speak to you about our priorities as a Labour Party. And about what you believe a future Labour Government should prioritise when it comes to our health policy.

We have a lot to sort out, so there will be many competing priorities if we are to get into office but I want you to know that I will continue to champion an improved preventative health service and work towards our ambition to be the healthiest society we have ever seen.

I can only do that with your support and guidance, but I know for sure that together we can achieve this ambition that I lay before us today.

SHARON SPEAKS AT SHA CONFERENCE ON PUBLIC HEALTH PRIORITIES

Sharon was invited along to speak at the Socialist Health Association's conference on Public Health Priorities where she outlined the policy direction the Labour Party was taking when it came...

Read my latest Sunderland Echo column here or read it on the Echo's website. 

Sharon_Echo_col_header_FIN.jpgThe past couple of weeks have seen the Tories embattled as they lurch from one crisis to another.

What this has done is distract from the job of government and this week’s Budget was sadly more of the same.

Under the last seven years of Tory rule, we have seen austerity weaken our country’s future potential, and this week’s Budget confirmed what we expected to be the case: productivity, business investment and growth forecasts revised down for the next five years.

Whilst there were welcome announcements in the Budget, including the Government footing the bill to refurbish the Tyne & Wear Metro rolling stock after concerted campaigning by local MPs and Nexus, this does not mean we should celebrate this Budget; far from it.

The wider economic forecasts show an impact on jobs and people’s incomes, yet the Tories are failing to come forward with radical proposals to address these growing issues.

Instead they are providing more of the same with the odd token policy thrown in to gloss over their failures.

More must be done than what is happening at the moment.

Instead of focusing on clinging to power, the Tories must make sure that they deliver for as many people as possible in our country.

Labour has a clear plan which includes real investment in skills and jobs and a large-scale housebuilding programme, plans to help people’s incomes by providing a real living wage and capping energy prices, and ensuring the super-rich don’t get away with more tax breaks and tackle tax avoidance.

People wanted change when they voted in the snap General Election in the summer. Yet, at the first chance this Government had to offer just that, they let down so many people by sticking with the status quo and overseeing a fragile economy that is failing to put the many first.

ECHO COLUMN: BUDGET LETS PEOPLE DOWN BY STICKING TO STATUS QUO

Read my latest Sunderland Echo column here or read it on the Echo's website.  The past couple of weeks have seen the Tories embattled as they lurch from one crisis...

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