Tag Archives: carers

Scottish boosts for carers make those in the rest of the UK look second-class 

Care: the Tories don’t.

The Scottish Parliament has announced another boost for carers – this time those who work unpaid apart from receiving the government allowance.

It’s only a fortnight since the UK government refused to give people employed as carers the real living wage – as opposed to the fake ‘national’ living wage the Conservatives mocked up a few years ago.

Carers employed in Scotland already receive the real living wage and are therefore £1.09 per hour better-off than those in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Now, the SNP-run Scottish Parliament has announced a one-off Carers’ Allowance top-up of £230.10 in June, to be paid in recognition of the extra pressures unpaid carers are facing because of the coronavirus crisis and lockdown.

And Scottish carers already receive a supplement of £230.10, twice a year.

The top-up announcement means they will receive £690.30 more than their counterparts in the other UK countries this year.

It establishes a two-tier pay pattern for carers in the UK, with those in Scotland automatically better-off than the others, who are therefore now second-class.

Carers in the rest of the UK are already agitating for the national government in London to even up the balance:

Chief Executive of Carers UK Helen Walker said: “The UK Government needs to do its part to ensure the rest of the UK’s unpaid carers receiving Carer’s Allowance – and providing upwards of 35 hours of care a week – also receive a coronavirus supplement.

“This is imperative to show carers that the Government recognises the additional financial costs that they are facing at this time.

“Caring Behind Closed Doors, our research into carers’ experiences during lockdown, showed 81 per cent of unpaid carers had extra financial costs as a result of the crisis.

“At the same time, unpaid carers are under extra pressure, providing more care and not getting breaks.”

This Writer used to be a carer, of course. I received Carers’ Allowance for many years and only gave it up because my earnings from Vox Political meant I was no longer eligible for it.

I still do the work, of course – and if I was still receiving the allowance, I would be furious that the UK government is saying – even if only by default – that my work is less valuable because I don’t live in Scotland; that caring is as much a postcode lottery as the Tories have made healthcare.

Some might argue that it is unfair for Scotland to put the UK’s Tory government in this position – and it’s a reasonable argument.

But if Scotland can afford it, then there’s no reason the much richer, national government can’t. It’s just a matter of priorities.

Source: Coronavirus: Scottish unpaid carers set to receive £230 one-off Carer’s Allowance top-up – Welfare Weekly

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Coronavirus: Unpaid carers are working harder but ‘completely ignored’ by government

Care: the Tories don’t.

Family members who provide care for loved ones with only Carers’ Allowance as financial support are claiming that the coronavirus has “overwhelmed” them but the government is ignoring them.

It’s absolutely no surprise to This Writer. I gave up my claim for Carers Allowance last year, after my income from Vox Political finally exceeded the amount you’re allowed to earn per week (which isn’t much at all).

How anyone can survive on £67.25 a week alone is beyond me.

For myself, the stress of being a carer and writing a website every day is huge, but the fact is that I make just about enough money to cushion the worst effects.

That doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate how hard it is on my fellow carers (because remember, I haven’t given up minding Mrs Mike). So it’s heartbreaking to read the following:

New research published today by Carers UK reveals how 70% of unpaid carers in the UK are having to provide more care for their loved ones during the Coronavirus outbreak.

The survey of nearly 5,000 unpaid carers showed that, on average, carers are picking up an additional 10 hours of unpaid care per week.

A third of these (35%) are having to provide more hours of care because their local care and support services have been reduced or closed.

More than half (55%) told Carers UK that they feel overwhelmed managing their caring responsibilities during the outbreak and are worried about burning out in the coming weeks.

The survey also found that 87% of family carers are worried about what will happen to the people they care for if they have to self-isolate or become ill.

The research shows 81% of carers are having to spend more money during the outbreak. The top increases in expenditure include spending more on food (72%) – due to lack of supermarket delivery slots and need for specialist food – and household bills (50%).

Worryingly, 1 in 10 claim to be spending more on equipment for the person they care for.

It’s very expensive indeed – in terms of finance and personal, emotional energy.

Carers UK is urging the Tory government to increase Carer’s Allowance, to recognise the crucial role people are playing in the country’s fight back against coronavirus – but I don’t think anything will come of it.

The Tories know they’re onto a good thing – 6.5 million people providing billions of pounds worth of care services for less than the minimum wage because they are doing it for family members.

You could say it’s the worst kind of emotional blackmail. There’s no social care service, and you can be sure that there won’t be in the future – the Tories will plead that the cost of getting the economy back up and running is prohibitive. So they – we – feel constained to do it ourselves.

Think of that when the Tories say they’re doing everything they can.

Source: Unpaid family carers ‘feel completely ignored’ by Government amid the Coronavirus pandemic – Welfare Weekly

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Coronavirus: Government ‘has abandoned’ disabled people and their carers

Once again the Tory government’s behaviour betrays its real attitude to people with disabilities.

People with disabilities who rely on carers who come to their homes are being forced to make a “hobson’s choice” between their health and their care – the loss of which would also harm their health.

The government can protest all it wants that it has given guidance for the social care sector on coping with coronavirus – but this does not cover individual disabled people who use their direct payments to employ their own carers.

There are also concerns over how disabled people employing their own PAs can secure supplies of personal protective equipment (PPE), such as gloves, aprons and masks.

Disability News Service provides details of the NHS’s confused and contradictory response to one such person’s inquiries.

“She began showing flu-like symptoms this week and said she was originally advised by NHS 111 to “self-isolate”, after she described her symptoms over the phone.

“But when she explained that she relied on care workers visiting her twice daily, she was put on hold by the telephone adviser, before eventually being told that it was OK for her care workers to come in as usual, as long as appropriate hygiene measures were taken.

“She ignored this advice and is instead attempting to self-isolate without any support from care workers.

“She said the information she received could mean that other disabled people could be receiving care from a care worker who has come “directly from houses of people in self-isolation, on direct instructions from 111.”

It seems clear that the government does not have a clue about how to ensure these people get the support they need.

Worse still, This Writer is concerned that ministers may be sitting on solutions rather than putting into practice actions that might cost money.

It says everything about Tory priorities that £330 billion is splurged on policies to protect the economy from coronavirus – but the workers who fuel that economy, and people who are already suffering from long-term illnesses and disabilities, are left to choke on it.

Source: Coronavirus: Government ‘has abandoned’ disabled people on direct payments – Disability News Service

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Plymouth couple’s benefit nightmare shows Tories have set neighbour against neighbour

Look at what the UK has become under a Conservative government that would penalise disabled people who don’t use their walking sticks while putting out the bins.

Darren and Tracy Grylls, of Plymouth, were told their benefits have been frozen – pending review – because a neighbour had seen them walking without the aid of sticks.

Apparently Mrs Grylls has also been criticised for leaning on a shopping trolley in a supermarket, rather than her walking stick. This is a common habit among people who have difficulty walking.

But the Department for Work and Pensions is already aware that they do not need to use their sticks for everything.

Tracy suffers with severe arthritis and Darren has Spina bifida occulta as well as non-alcohol related chronic liver disease, which makes prolonged movement difficult. Both have diabetes.

And now they are afraid to leave the house, for fear that the person who is spying on them will make another misleading video.

The Tories have spent years promoting a false narrative that people claiming sickness and disability benefits are “scroungers” and “skivers” – in order to deprive them of those benefits and endanger their lives.

That is what Mr and Mrs Grylls are facing now, as their ESA, care allowances and Personal Independence Payments have all been suspended, meaning they have no income at all.

Is this the kind of nation we want to be?

One in which vulnerable people are subjected to misery and poverty because their neighbours have been told to hate them?

Isn’t it time we changed our culture back into one that tries to help people, rather than hurt them?

Source: Plymouth couple’s benefits frozen by DWP because they can walk – Plymouth Live

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DWP Carers Allowance ‘crackdown’ will harm thousands – who save the government BILLIONS

People on Carers Allowance save the government more than £14 BILLION every year because they receive a pittance instead of the average wage for their efforts. Now the Tories want to penalise thousands of carers with a spurious claim that they have been overpaid even that tiny amount.

The Conservative Party’s latest attack on the sick and disabled will undermine the people who help them with their daily needs – their carers.

At last count, 826,000 carers provided at least 35 hours of care every week to someone who receives a qualifying disability benefit. Currently they receive £66.15 per week for this service – just £1.89 per hour.

The current minimum wage (or the National Living Wage if you want to use the Tories’ lie) is £8.21 per hour, so carers are clearly being paid well below the minimum wage.

But the average pay for a care worker in the UK is around £12 per hour, or £21,000 per year.

From this we can deduce that, if the government had to employ care workers to do the same work as people on Carers Allowance, the drain on the national purse would be an extra £17,550 per year.

That’s £14,496,300,000 per year!

And the Tory-run DWP is complaining about £150 million – a paltry one ninety-sixth of that staggering total.

That is the amount the hated government department for welfare persecution intends to take back from people it claims have received too much Carers Allowance at any time over the last 10 years.

Only 80,000 carers will be affected, but some will be hit with a bill of more than £20,000 – which will take 34 years to pay off at the current repayment rate.

These carers would not only be paying for their own error in failing to notify the DWP of changes in their earnings at an appropriate time, but also for the DWP’s failure to detect those changes by its own means.

The DWP classifies 89% of the value of overpayments as claimant error or fraud, which will need to be repaid. But fraud accounts for 0.6 per cent of this total.

This means 99.4 per cent of affected carers may be penalised for mistakes by the DWP.

The plan to claw back the overpayments was revealed in a report by the National Audit Office, which warned that the DWP had – as is typical of that department – neglected to consider the impact the imposition of repayments will have on some of the most vulnerable families in the UK.

Frank Field, chair of the Commons Work and Pensions committee, summed it all up:

“Once again, the NAO has devastatingly laid bare the incompetence at DWP, and its stark human cost.

“Not for the first time, we see DWP squeezing those least able to afford it. It will chase down carers who provide such an immense service to our society, potentially cutting their income for decades – when it knows that a large part of the responsibility lies squarely at its own door.

“Worse still, the NAO shows that DWP hasn’t bothered to find out what clawing back these sums will cost carers and the people they care for, in every sense.

“There was already plenty wrong with the way we recognise carers’ invaluable contribution. Rather than making things worse, why doesn’t the Department just spare us all: end this massive scandal, focus on the real fraudsters and write off the overpayments it has allowed to build up unchecked?”

I’ll tell you the reason.

It’s because the Conservatives – through the DWP – want to hurt these most vulnerable members of our society.

Indeed, they hope that sanctioning thousands of pounds from carers – and in effect from the disabled people they support, as many will be caring for family members or loved ones – will make it impossible for them to cope.

They want to push these people into the kind of despair that causes mental imbalance and drives people towards death – either due to physical illnesses caused by the lack of money (consider the case of Stephen Smith) or by suicide (there are too many example of this to count).

Death by benefit deprivation has been the Conservatives’ plan for many years and this is simply the latest stage of that plan.

Source: Thousands being handed fines of up to £20,000 in Carer’s Allowance crackdown – Mirror Online

EXTRA: A commenter on the Vox Political Facebook page has pointed out that I could be neglecting to mention billions of pounds more that the government is saving, by not having to pay for sick and disabled people to live in care homes.

This person wrote: “When you say that the ‘official’ care workers are usually paid £12 per hour, or £21,000 per year, you don’t take into account the fact that many of the carers on £66.15 per week are caring for people who would otherwise be in a care home.

“If the disabled person was in a care home then this would cost the taxpayer considerably more, in some cases over £1,000 per week.”

Fair point?


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Support this petition for free or cut-price travel for carers

Please add your signature to the petition.

As a carer myself, I should declare an interest in this particular matter.

Amanda Macdonald writes:

I have created a petition on change.org campaigning for free/concessionary travel for carers that I would appreciate you getting behind and showing your support.

I was a Carer from a Young Age to a family member who suffered a long fight with Early Onset Dementia from the age of 48, Epilepsy, Diabetes and many other conditions. I am also part of my local carers centre and have met many carers of all ages that all have had a huge impact on their lives from Caring. This is why I feel so strongly about this issue and have heard how much this simple change would help so many.

The proposal is that the government take the initiative to offer free/ concessionary transport for carers to allow them to better care. This could be possible either through adapting the concession and companion card which currently allows the carer to travel with the cared for but not separately which in most cases is needed or through some form of add on to carers allowance for those in receipt of it. Though preferably carers wouldn’t need to be in receipt of carers allowance as not every carer who could benefit from this travel are.

My petition has currently reached over 3600 signatures and is being backed by my local council’s petition board (Renfrewshire Council), in lobbying the Scottish Government to provide free/concessionary transport for unpaid carers.

Some other supporters of my petition include; Alzheimers Scotland, Dementia Friends Scotland, Downs Heart Group, Women For Independence, The coalition of carers, Carers UK, Carers Trust Scotland , ME Association, Enable Scotland and many MSP’s.

Any support you show would be truly appreciated.

The link below directs you to my petition. I would truly appreciate your signature and if you could encourage others by sharing it on your social media pages.

https://www.change.org/p/concessionary-transport-for-all-carers-they-require-your-help


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Here’s a multi-signature letter that deserves MUCH more exposure

150401carers

Before anybody accuses This Writer of being “self-servative”, let’s remember that I’m far from well-paid as a carer and I can’t expect any reward for having signed today’s letter in The Guardian.

You haven’t read it? It’s here. It runs as follows:

“Family carers are among the most responsible members of society. CarerWatch, along with others, believes suggestions made in recent leaked documents of moving carers to universal credit would result in an unfair system that gives no recognition whatsoever of the contribution carers make to society. CarerWatch believes that governments should accept their responsibility to carers. Carers deserve a livable income, a separate benefit which recognises that they are not unemployed or “passive” recipients of benefit but are making an important contribution to society.

“Those in receipt of carer’s allowance cannot be classed as being inactive. Carers are unique within the benefit system in that they have to provide a minimum of 35 hours a week care in order to qualify for carer’s allowance. Over 1.5 million carers provide more than 50 hours’ a week of care, some providing care 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Carer’s allowance cannot therefore be considered as being a “passive” benefit. Caring places physical and emotional demands on a carer. Unpaid caring entails carrying out the same tasks and duties considered by society to be work when carried out by paid care workers.

“Without carers’ unpaid contribution to society, this unpaid care would have to be provided by state-funded social care staff at a considerably higher cost to society. Without carers, our NHS and social care systems would collapse. The average carer is saving the nation over £15,260 a year. A full-time carer saves the nation considerably more. CarerWatch believes these proposals indicate a failure on the government’s part to recognise that caring is not passive and that carers make a valuable contribution to society (estimated to be worth £119bn a year).”

This Writer is proud to stand alongside the other signatories, who are:

Rosemary O’Neill CarerWatch, Frances Kelly, Pat Onions Pat’s Petition, Karen Machin St Helens Mental Health Carers, Pam Pinder CarersforumUK, Fiona Sinclair Autism Rights, Carole Rutherford Act Now for Autism, Ruth Lister House of Lords, Neal Lawson Chair, Compass , Norma Curran Scottish Campaign for a Fair Society and Values Into Action Scotland, Lynn Williams Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations, Valerie Minns Rethink Carers Lancashire, Peter J Perfitt, Simon Barrow Co-director, Ekklesia, Bernadette Meaden, Dr Simon Duffy Centre for Welfare Reform, Jonathan Bartley Work and pension spokesperson for the Green party, Mo Stewart Disability studies researcher, Linda Burnip Social Work Action Network, Gail Ward, Ian Hodson BFAWU, Jo Walker, Annie Bishop, Fiona Bruce, Rob Gershon, Nessie Kay, Kaliya Franklin, Ian Jones WOW campaign, Michelle Maher, Laura Stringhetti, Carole Ford, Jane Bence #newapproach, Wayne Blackburn, Rick Burgess, Nick Dilworth, Hazel Quinn, Sue Livitt Don’t Cut Us Out, John James McCardle, Stephen Carty Black Triangle campaign, Johnny Void, Mr and Mrs Charles Huddleston, John O’Callaghan-Williamson Director of Tcell, Alan Wheatley, Ros Bentley, John and Susan Pilling, Mrs Pat Pye, Vin West Chair, Wales Alliance for Citizen Directed Support, Bill Campbell, John McDonnell MP, Adam Lotun, Anne Novis, Susan Archibald Archibald Foundation, Maggie Bridgeman, Mehrun Dasu, Tom Shakespeare, Rosemary Trustam, Sam Sly, John Dalrymple, Laura Able, Chris Coffey St Helen’s Social Inclusion and Disability Network, Margaret Chapman, Dr Rhetta Moran Refugee and Asylum Seeker Participatory Action Research, Barbara Brown, Dr Julie Ridley, Joan Gauld, Sue Taylor, Chris McCahe, Patricia Burke, Pamela Burke, Paula Peters, Louise Meram Bromley Disabled People Against Cuts, and Neil White.

Follow me on Twitter: @MidWalesMike

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Survey boosts ‘divide and rule’ agenda – and hate crime

“I don’t know if anyone’s listened to the news/checked the papers today, but I’m sickened (although not surprised) the Tories are stepping up their hatred campaign against immigrants and the unemployed, by publishing exaggerated and out-of-context statistical reports. All they’re doing is fuelling racism and lack of compassion to get small minded people to support their agenda. Outrageous.”

That was the response of Alex – a very non-political friend of mine – to the data from NatCen Social Research today, that claimed people want to see less spending on welfare and benefits, and fewer immigrants.

The BBC’s report had NatCen’s chief executive Penny Young, who wrote the report, saying the public’s view on welfare was “in tune… with the coalition’s policies”.

Not according to Alex, sister!

He reckons Ms Young is part of a Coalition government agenda to brainwash us all into agreeing with schemes that are, even if only on the face of it, evil. And so do I. Who funded this survey?

Here’s a thing you might not have picked up in all the reporting: You may have noticed that Ms Young says, “For the first time since 2008, we’ve seen that the number of people who are prepared to see more money go on disability benefits has actually fallen.”

But that has never been part of anybody’s plans – Labour, the Tories, the Liberal Democrats or the smaller parties (to my knowledge). The problem is that the Coalition is cutting the amount of money being spent on disability – and other – benefits. Massively.

In doing so, it has created a new target for hate crime and a new underclass for society, presumably as a huge distraction from the real problem faced by the country – the Coalition’s mismanagement of the world’s seventh-largest economy.

There is plenty of money here, enough to help all those with illnesses and disabilities, feed all the children (see yesterday’s blog entry), and even to invest in new businesses and jobs. But it is being held by wealthy people – mostly in offshore bank accounts – and the Coalition is doing nothing to free it from their grasp.

Perhaps people think cutting the welfare benefit bill will lead to a cut in taxes. Think again, people! Even on the face of it – by which I mean according to what they’ve told us – the Coalition needs the money to pay down the deficit and cut back the national debt. What they’re really doing is anybody’s guess, but slashing the livelihood of the disabled will not save you one penny in tax.

And let’s take a moment to remember this important fact, posted on Facebook by Adele (not the singer): Welfare isn’t just about people on the dole. It’s about people in low-paid jobs, people who are carers, people who are too sick or disabled to work, people with cancer and people who have lost their jobs and cannot get another. It is a safety net for those who are disadvantaged in our society. Everyone falls on hard times and just when it may happen to you and you need that safety net, you would want it to be there to catch you.”

Also attacked in the report are immigrants, with three-quarters of the 3,000+ people asked saying they wanted to see a reduction in the number of those coming into the country.

This survey looks like it was written by the editor of the Daily Mail.

The fact that it also suggests people don’t want any more cuts in public spending is meaningless, compared to the damage it inflicts with what I’ve reported above.

I predict a greater increase in hate crime against immigrants and the disabled because – and this is what the perpetrators will say – “It’s what people want, innit?”

Is it?

Over to you.

When you can’t do right for doing wrong

An acquaintance of mine collapsed at work a few days ago, I’m told. Apparently he’s been having trouble reconciling his love life with his duties as a father and it has, in colloquial terms, ‘done his head in’.

As I understand it (from a mutual friend down the caff, so you know it must be true), this chap has managed to start a relationship with a young lady half his age, who is therefore closer in maturity to his teenage daughters than to the gentleman himself.

As a result, rivalry as erupted between the girlfriend and the daughters, with the result that several of them have threatened to move out on more than one occasion.

But he seems to be totally smitten with his paramour, to the point where he spent a small fortune taking her to the theatre in London at Christmas (to see Les Miserables, I believe. What an appropriate title. If they’d gone to Cinderella, they might have been having a ball by now).

It seems that, after his collapse, our old boy was saying he had so many different things going around in his mind, it had made him completely dizzy, confused, and disorientated.

I can’t really sympathise too much. I think he’s trying to maintain a situation that is untenable. In my opinion, he wants to keep his relationship at the initial, euphoric, erotic-romantic heights at which it probably started, and it can’t be done. Every lasting relationship eventually settles down into something a little less fragile, a bit more durable, and a lot less exciting. I’m sorry, but that’s the way it is.

In trying to stay at the dizzy heights (probably because he thinks that’s what the girlfriend wants), my acquaintance seems to have neglected his duties to his daughters somewhat. No wonder they’re angry with him.

Now they’ve reached the point where everybody’s in an entrenched position and nobody’s willing to negotiate at all. No wonder he fainted.

If I was in that situation, I’d turn to the girlfriend and say, “Things have to change. I have a responsibility to my girls and need to look after them. You will receive less attention and fewer treats because I can only stretch my time and money so far. That’s the way it is. If you don’t like it, maybe you should leave. I don’t want to see or hear about any animosity between you and the girls about this; if that happens, you should leave. I’ll be heartbroken, but I know where my duties lie.” Or words to that effect. It’s the only fair solution.

I say this from the vantage point of a relationship that has lasted nearly 12 years now. Mrs Mike and I fell from the lofty plateau of mutual infatuation long ago and our life is now a concentrated effort to survive, really. We manage all right.

We still argue, though. Of course we do. Only today she was telling me how little I do for her around the house and that I should lay off all those silly frivolous things I do in my office room – like this blog.

On the surface, that’s an attack on the choices I make about my leisure time, but if that’s what you thought, you’d be wrong. It’s about money.

Mrs Mike is disabled; I’m her carer. The benefit money that we receive is not enough to pay all our outgoings, so I have to go out and work to earn some more. When you’re on Carers’ Allowance, this is permitted, within limited parameters. Most of the time, when I’m holed up in the office, I’m either working, or I’m working on getting more work.

The blog is what I do to relax. Writing about heavyweight subjects like disability benefits, depression and suchlike is what I do to relax. Get used to it; you talk about what you know.

So she’s really arguing that I should spend less time ensuring our survival and more time doing housework. This would be nice, but I simply don’t have the luxury. I’m caught between a rock and a hard place.

This is why – and here comes the politics, in case you were wondering if I’d ever get to it – the debates over the Welfare Reform Bill, coupled with the revelations that Vodafone might owe even more billions in unpaid taxes than we had previously suspected, greatly concern me.

The government wants to cut £9.2 billion from its budget for services and benefits payable to disabled people, at a time when we find that Vodafone might owe £8bn in unpaid taxes that HMRC haven’t demanded! That would nearly pay what the Coalition wants to cut!

Amounts payable from other companies would clear that deficit completely, with plenty to spare for other benefits and public services the government is determined to cut – or for clearing the much-debated national deficit.

Why isn’t it happening?

Well it’s a choice, isn’t it? The Conservative-led coalition wants to cut public services and is using the deficit as an excuse to do so. In order to make this strategy succeed, it must also ensure that those who pay the highest taxes receive tax breaks of some kind. It’s called ‘Starving the Beast’ and I refer to it in another blog here.

The reason they have tabled legislation to cut benefits for the disabled isn’t that they have to; it’s that they want to.

If the proposals that were blocked by the House of Lords on January 11 had gone through – and if those which deal specifically with Disability Living Allowance, which go to the vote next week, do get passed, there will be many more arguments about money and the allocation of carers’ time, up and down the country. Perhaps couples will split, creating an even greater burden on the country as they move into different residences and claim Housing Benefit (the government was defeated in its plans to cut this in December last year).

Looking at the government’s plans in this way, and this is only my opinion, they make about as much sense as my friend’s confused love life. At least he’s trying to do what’s right.

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