Tag Archives: change

Thousands of disabled students could get Universal Credit after woman wins legal fight

Tactical cruelty: perhaps DWP bosses realised they were going to lose a court case so they changed the law in order to ensure that disabled students would continue to be unable to claim Universal Credit.

This is good news for many – but not for everybody:

Tens of thousands of disabled students could qualify for Universal Credit after 22-year-old mostly-blind Sidra Kauser won a legal victory over a loophole saying she could not claim Universal Credit.

To receive the benefit, she would have had to take a work capability assessment – but the DWP’s rules contained a bizarre ‘Catch-22’ that she could not take the test, because she is a student.

As a result, she could not be found to have limited capability for work, and therefore couldn’t receive the benefit.

The High Court has quashed the DWP’s decision, saying it breaches the Tory-run government department’s own regulations, dating back to 2013 – and ordered it to pay Ms Kauser’s legal fees.

But this fight is not over because the Tory government changed the law on August 5, ensuring that disabled students claiming Universal Credit after that date would not be invited to a work capability assessment and therefore would not be eligible for the benefit at all.

That will have to be challenged in a future court case.

But this is another victory for crusading lawyers Leigh Day, who explained the case:

Sidra Kauser, aged 22, from Halifax, is visually impaired and is currently studying for a masters degree at York University.

She received Personal Independence Payment (PIP) but that, combined with a student loan, was not enough to provide her with an acceptable standard of living. After payment of her rent, she had £120 a month to live on.

She applied for universal credit, but because she was a student, she was refused a Work Capability Assessment (WCA), which meant she was effectively disentitled from claiming universal credit.

Sidra applied for a judicial review of the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) policy (which stated that disabled students shouldn’t be invited to a WCA), arguing that the law required the DWP to conduct a WCA to determine whether she had limited capability for work, in which case she would be entitled to universal credit.

Now, after the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, Therese Coffey, told the court in July, 2020 that she would not be defending Sidra’s claim, a high court judge has ruled that the SSWP had acted unlawfully and has quashed the decision to refuse Sidra’s claim for universal credit.

Sidra will now be given a WCA, and if she is deemed to be unable to work, she will be entitled to make a claim for universal credit.

The court ruling also has an impact on those disabled students whose applications for universal credit had previously been unsuccessful because they had been refused a WCA.

However, on 5 August the DWP changed the law so that other disabled students who made a claim for universal credit after that date would not be invited  to a WCA and would not therefore be able to establish their limited capability for work.

Ms Kauser said: “I am glad I decided to take a stand and pursue my claim for judicial review of the DWP decision to refuse me a WCA. Hopefully other students will benefit from the court ruling.”

Leigh Day solicitor Lucy Cadd added: “Sidra made a brave stand against the decision to refuse her a WCA and it has proved successful. It has been estimated by the charity Disability Rights UK that the Secretary of State’s unlawful policy, which has been in operation since 2013, could have adversely affected 30,000 disabled students. Other disabled students who were refused a WCA prior to 5 August 2020 and therefore lost out on their claim for universal credit, should ask the Secretary of State to revise her decision.

“Although the DWP has callously changed the regulations to prevent more disabled students being entitled to a WCA, there may be scope for legal challenge to the new regulations.”

Source: Disabled student wins right to be considered for universal credit

Heatwave exposes failures of Tory UK to cope with climate change

Heat death: the far north has experienced its hottest temperatures ever, with fires breaking out across the world. But the Tories see no need to adapt to climate change and Keir Starmer has abandoned Labour’s policies to deal with it.

This Site received a strange response to the article on Tory class war yesterday (August 14), to the effect that I should be writing about climate change instead. In fact, the two are intertwined.

The Conservatives don’t accept climate change because the changes that acceptance would require would bite into the profits of their donors – and therefore into their own funds.

The recent/current heatwave has brought the issue into sharp focus. This Writer has been stewing, every day – and the nightly thunderstorms, while entertaining, didn’t make up for the fact that it has been hard to concentrate.

It seems I am not alone.

Our buildings are unsuited to hot weather; they were made to keep heat in during the winter. There is still no legal requirement to ensure homes, hospitals, schools or care homes are designed for the current or future climate – and under the Tories I do not believe there every will be.

It costs too much.

Parts of England are set to run out of water soon, because the Tories privatised water provision and the new companies fell into the hands of foreign government-owned franchises that have taken huge profits but invested nothing.

Our transport and energy networks are also facing crisis – look at the Stonehaven derailment which has been blamed on a landslip after heavy rain.

What is the government doing? It’s making matters worse.

Rishi Sunak has announced a £2 billion fund to make homes more energy efficient, with the cash going towards insulation – but the wrong insulation can turn a house into a heat trap.

And Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition is no help with Keir Starmer at the helm. He has abandoned Jeremy Corbyn’s ambitious plans to combat climate change because he thinks they’re unpopular with the voters.

We’re facing a wholesale failure in thought and deed by our leaders.

And when the fabric of the nation falls (even further) apart as a result, who do you think will get the blame?

We will.

Source: UK infrastructure inadequate for climate emergency, experts warn | Environment | The Guardian

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Did Tory-run DWP change rules on cancelling benefits to avoid humiliation in court?

Errol Graham: he starved to death after the Department for Work and Pensions cut off his benefits.

The Department for Work and Pensions has quietly changed its rules on stopping benefits of vulnerable claimants – after relatives of a man who died of starvation won the right to have a judicial review.

Relatives of Errol Graham were granted permission for a judicial review of DWP policies after the department failed to review and revise them itself, following his death.

The DWP ignored its own safeguarding advice to deprive Errol Graham of his benefits, This Site reported previously.

Left with no income, Mr Graham starved to death.

He had been receiving incapacity benefit, and then ESA, for many years as a result of enduring mental distress that had led to him being sectioned.

The DWP stopped Mr Graham’s Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) entitlement – and backdated that decision to the previous month – after making two unsuccessful visits to his home to ask why he had not attended a face-to-face Work Capability Assessment (WCA) on August 31, 2017.

He had not been asked to fill in an ESA50 questionnaire, though.

The government department managed to stop an ESA payment that had been due to be credited to his bank account on October 17, the same day it made the second unsuccessful safeguarding visit.

Its own rules state that it should have made both safeguarding visits before stopping the benefits of a vulnerable claimant.

Not only that, but the DWP had needed – but failed – to seek further medical evidence from Mr Graham’s GP, in order to make an informed decision about him.

In fact, it seems this would not have made much difference as Mr Graham’s GP had not seen him since 2013, or recalled him for vital blood tests or issued prescriptions since 2015, despite medical conditions including significant, long-term mental distress and hypothyroidism.

Because he had lost his entitlement to ESA, Mr Graham’s housing benefit was also stopped.

When bailiffs knocked down his front door to evict him on June 20, 2018, they found a dead body that weighed just four and a half stone. The only food in the flat was a couple of out-of-date tins of fish.

Mr Graham was 57 years old.

Solicitors Leigh Day, acting for Mr Graham’s family, revealed they had won the right to have a judicial review last week.

And on Tuesday – the day before Parliament rose for the summer recess – the DWP told Parliament’s Work and Pensions committee that it had changed the rules.

Permanent Secretary Peter Schofield said: “If we tried all of that [contacting the claimant by phone and carrying out two safeguarding visits] we would then take that back and have a case conference about the individual and particularly, obviously if it’s someone with vulnerabilities that we know about, then we would seek to involve other organisations that might have a different way of knowing about that individual.

“And then we would seek to understand what do they know about that individual and how can we support them.

“And if that fails that could then be escalated to the safeguarding leads. And in that way basically what we’d seek to do is provide support not removal of benefits.”

Do you believe that?

Tessa Gregory of Leigh Day seems sceptical, still: “Today’s announcement that the procedures have changed is news to us and news to our client.

“Whilst we cautiously welcome the announcement, it is imperative that the Secretary of State publishes the relevant guidance immediately so that our client and the public can see whether it actually requires decision makers to liaise with different agencies in cases like Errol’s and whether enough has been done to ensure that the vulnerable are adequately protected.”

This Writer thinks the best way to achieve that aim is to go ahead with the judicial review. Why were these changes only brought in when the Tory government was facing humiliation in court?

Source: DWP chiefs quietly change rule on stopping benefits after man starved to death – Mirror Online

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Floodgates open as 300+ disabled people issue court claim for Universal Credit cash

A landmark court ruling looks set to cost the Tory government a small fortune as people with disabilities line up to demand their lost cash.

More than 300 people are involved in this initial claim – but solicitors Leigh Day reckon more than 13,000 could be owed lost income totalling £170 per month or more.

Here are the details:

More than 300 severely disabled people have issued a claim in the High Court for lost income under the universal credit system.

The group, represented by Leigh Day solicitors, say they have each missed out on at least £170 a month since they were moved on to universal credit as the new benefits system has been rolled out across the UK.

All of the group were moved on to the system before January, 2019 and lost the severe disability premium which they had previously claimed, which left them worse off.

However, severely disabled people who have been moved on to universal credit since January 2019 have not missed out on the severe disability premium.

Instead, their universal credit claims have been managed by the Severe Disability premium Gateway system which has been put in place to ensure that severely disabled benefits claimants do not end up worse off under the universal credit system.

The claimants argue that they have suffered because of the unlawful implementation of the Universal Credit  (Transitional Provisions) 2014, the SDP Gateway Regulations, January 2019, and the Managed Migrations Regulations 2019.

They claim they have suffered discrimination under Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The current litigation appears to follow a Court of Appeal ruling on these issues – that the government not only discriminated against disabled people moving from Severe Disability Premium onto Universal Credit, but then tried to discriminate against them with the repayments.

The issue was discovered by two claimants, anonymised as TP and AR, whose disability benefits were cancelled when they moved from one local authority area to another. They were put on Universal Credit instead, with £180 per month wiped off the amount they were set to receive.

The government attempted to rectify the situation with regulations which stopped other severely disabled people from moving over to Universal Credit and provided those who had already moved over with back payments.

But in another failure of the kind that has made the Tory government notorious, the disabled men were only paid back at a rate of £80 a month, rather than the £180 that they had lost.

The Court of Appeal, in a unanimous judgment, agreed with lower courts that the Government had unlawfully discriminated against this cohort of severely disabled claimants.

This site previously reported that a pre-action protocol letter had been sent to Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey. Leigh Day solicitors have now issued the full claim, saying she failed to substantively respond to that letter.

They believe that up to 13,000 disabled people in the UK have been affected by the change and may be entitled to make a claim to retrieve lost benefit payments.

“Our clients believe that it clearly cannot be right that they find themselves £170 a month worse off under the universal credit system when other claimants have the assurance that they will not be worse off on universal credit,” said Leigh Day solicitor Ryan Bradshaw.

The claimants are asking the Work and Pensions Secretary for compensation equal to the amount of money they have lost following their transfer to Universal Credit, for their previous level of benefits to be restored and maintained until a lawful migration scheme is established, and for compensation for the stress they have been caused.

Source: Disabled benefit claimants issue claim for lost income under universal credit system

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Why aren’t Tory voters furious after their party u-turned on free school meals and all their other disastrous policies?

Tearing Britain apart: it’s what Conservative voters supported, so why aren’t they complaining about every policy alteration that prevents it?

This Twitter user makes a very good point:

Mr Maginn is absolutely right.

If you voted Conservative, you voted for a party that would starve your children in the school holidays. Why aren’t you demanding that they stick to their principles?

This got me thinking about all the other ways the Tories have let their voters down over the last few months.

For example, we know that the Tories dismantled all the systems that had been in place to combat a pandemic like Covid-19. Conservative voters supported that.

So, if you’re a Conservative voter, why aren’t you absolutely raging that your demand for the entire nation to be infected, in order to develop “herd immunity” has been rejected? Voting Tory means that’s what you wanted, no matter how many people it killed.

Why aren’t you furious about the lockdown that interfered unforgivably with your ability to make money for yourselves and your family and boost the economy? You voted Tory – that’s what you had a right to expect, even if it meant your entire family caught Covid-19 and died.

Why aren’t you frothing at the mouth about the fact that the Tories were shamed into casting around for PPE (personal protective equipment) for NHS staff dealing with the coronavirus in hospitals? You voted Tory and the Tories decided long ago that this equipment would not be necessary – and we know they have been quietly dismantling the NHS for the last decade; if doctors, nurses and support staff all caught Covid and died, that would achieve the aim very well.

If you voted Conservative, then you supported that party’s Brexit policy that has discouraged foreign workers from coming to the UK – so you must be seething at Tory attempts to entice them back to harvest this year’s fruit crop before it rots. You voted for that crop to rot in the fields! It is unconscionable that the Tories should go against your wishes in trying to save it.

Progressing from there, if you voted Conservative, then you support the underlying racism that supported the “hostile environment” policy, and the Windrush generation deportations. You must be raging against the Black Lives Matter protests that took place across the UK and the calls for statues glorifying slavers and racists to be taken down. Why aren’t you contacting your MP, demanding that charges against the Nazis who rampaged through London on Saturday be dropped on the grounds that they are only good British citizens acting in concord with the policies of the Conservative government and its racist leader Boris Johnson?

Need I go on?

Too often, voters confuse what the Conservatives have done with what they wanted to do.

If Boris Johnson’s government had done everything it wanted, then the United Kingdom would already have been decimated by plague and famine (caused by deliberate starvation as well as failure to bring in the crops) – with worse to follow.

It’s what Conservative voters wanted. Perhaps someone should point that out to them.

DWP faces legal action over lost benefit cash – from no fewer than 275 people with disabilities

It seems people with disabilities are seizing the opportunity granted them by a landmark court ruling – and taking legal action against the government over lost benefit income.

Leigh Day solicitors have sent a pre-action protocol letter to Work and Pensions Secretary Therese Coffey on behalf of no fewer than 275 former claimants of disability benefits who say changes forced on them by the government department deprived them of £170 per month – or more.

They say they lost the cash because they were moved on to Universal Credit before January 2019, when the Department for Work and Pensions introduced the Severe Disability Premium (SDP) Gateway system.

This aims to ensure that people previously entitled to the Severe Disability Premium do not end up worse off when they are transferred to Universal Credit.

The 275 claimants involved say the unlawful implementation of the Universal Credit  (Transitional Provisions) 2014, the SDP Gateway Regulations, January 2019, and the Managed Migrations Regulations 2019 mean they have suffered discrimination, as defined by Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Leigh Day solicitors reckon up to 13,000 disabled people in the UK have been affected by the change and may be entitled to make a claim to retrieve lost benefit payments.

The current litigation appears to follow a Court of Appeal ruling that the government not only discriminated against disabled people moving from Severe Disability Premium onto Universal Credit, but then tried to discriminate against them with the repayments.

The issue was discovered by two claimants, anonymised as TP and AR, whose disability benefits were cancelled when they moved from one local authority area to another. They were put on Universal Credit instead, with £180 per month wiped off the amount they were set to receive.

The government attempted to rectify the situation with regulations which stopped other severely disabled people from moving over to Universal Credit and provided those who had already moved over with back payments.

But in another failure of the kind that has made the Tory government notorious, the disabled men were only paid back at a rate of £80 a month, rather than the £180 that they had lost.

The Court of Appeal, in a unanimous judgment, agreed with lower courts that the Government had unlawfully discriminated against this cohort of severely disabled claimants.

At long last, it seems, people with disabilities have a chance to get compensation from a Tory government that has persecuted them for more than a decade.

Source: 275 severely disabled people launch legal case against DWP over lost benefit income – Welfare Weekly

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Independent Group for Change’s financial records were destroyed

Anna Soubry: she was leader of Change UK at the end, while her partner was Treasurer.

Remember Change UK, the company-pretending-to-be-a-political-party that went through multiple name-changes in its short life?

Well, it seems the auditor handling the wind-up has discovered irregularities.

Will anything come of it – prosecutions? Doubtful.

Should prosecutions happen? Hard to tell.

Politicians seem to get away with so much these days, it’s impossible to tell whether they’re innocent of wrongdoing or not.

Staff at the Independent Group for Change, the disbanded party established by centrist MPs in 2019, “inappropriately destroyed” financial records, a report by its auditors has found.

According to the auditors, documents including bank statements and files recording details of donations to the party were destroyed by former members of staff. None of the documents, auditors said, could be “satisfactorily reconstructed”.

The report, contained in accounts filed at Companies House on Friday, said the loss of the documents had limited the scope of the auditor’s review of the party’s finances.

Source: Independent Group for Change’s financial records were destroyed | Politics | The Guardian

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How we can use measures to tackle COVID-19 to beat climate change

A guest article by Harry Fenton.

While governments across the world have responded swiftly to the COVID-19 pandemic with unprecedented lockdowns and restrictions, there has been no urgency by them or the global community to address climate change – which is a huge threat we have known about since the 1980s and have had plenty of time to do something about it.

While COVID-19 is a short-term crisis causing many illnesses and deaths as well as temporary economic damage, climate change is a long-term threat to humanity and the planet which could cause lasting damage to both if we don’t get a grip.

Prince Charles rightly called for the same level of response to climate change as coronavirus at a WaterAid event in March but this doesn’t mean we need lockdowns, social distancing or travel restrictions to tackle climate change.

With most of us being told to work from home for social distancing, air pollution around the world has plummeted with far fewer people travelling every day – so we should encourage home working after the lockdown.

Now that many larger employers have adapted their IT systems to make home working possible in response to the virus, they could be required to let people work from home if their job allows them to.

Governments would be able to invest more in super-fast broadband, funded by cancelling environmentally destructive transport infrastructure projects such as HS2.

Not only would this permanently reduce air pollution, people would have more free time and save money from not commuting twice a day and they would have more control over their working conditions so this will improve quality of life for millions of people.

To reduce the need for personal travel even more, public and private services could offer virtual appointments to service users through video calling applications such as Skype, which are being relied upon as we follow social distancing guidelines.

They could be used for many professional appointments including medical consultations, financial and legal appointments and job interviews but we could go as far as using them for juries and witnesses in court and for people who want to see their close friends and family who are in hospital or prison but can’t be there in person.

If this becomes widespread, people would save even more of their precious free time and this would be less stressful for people going through difficult times as they could discuss sensitive matters from the comfort of their own home.

Another key measure many governments have used to enforce social distancing has been to shut down ‘non-essential’ businesses at short notice so, if they have the will to do this, in response to a serious threat, why can’t they shut down parts of non-essential industries that are major contributors to climate change?

On my list would be the “fast fashion” industry, worth 10 per cent of global emissions, where clothes are only made to last a season, single use plastics manufacturers and intensive animal farming which, apart from being inhumane, is the most polluting part of the agricultural sector, worth nearly 20 per cent of global emissions.

The shutdown of these industries would need to be done in a controlled way over a period of time to mitigate the effect on the economy, give those workers time to find employment elsewhere and give them the financial support and retraining to help them do that.

Closing those three sub-industries alone would significantly reduce global emissions and our environmental impact without affecting the needs of the vast majority of people.

Travel restrictions have also been a major part of Coronavirus measures across the world and though we will need some travel restrictions to fight climate change, they wouldn’t be anywhere near as strict and they would focus on the usage of certain modes of transport, not on people’s movements.

The main restriction ought to be banning cars in large towns and cities once public transport provision is significantly improved, as most people live in major urban areas and most transport emissions come from cars. Last year, almost 30 per cent of the EU’s emissions came from transport, 60 per cent of which come from cars.

We could also ban flights of less than 400 miles and ration the number of flights for personal travel to two return flights a year and the same for business travel. That way, we can cut the majority of transport emissions while ensuring that people in major urban areas can travel around, people can carry out occasional business flights if necessary and people can still go on foreign holidays each year.

Clearly, we can swiftly implement measures to combat climate change that are much more radical than those that have been implemented to date – without destroying the global economy and without a significant change in most people’s quality of life.

Not doing enough to combat climate change will, in the long term, damage the global economy and the quality of life of billions of people throughout the world.

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How many people died because the DWP tampered with their benefit applications?

We’ve made the claim before; now Scotland’s Daily Record says it has proof. The Tories have tampered with benefit claims to starve us of cash.

Think about that.

Think about all the people who have died after being denied benefits – either after being driven to despair and suicide, or by the worsening of their illnesses and disabilities, or by starvation.

How many of those happened because the Tories changed their benefit claims – lied about them?

See for yourself:

We lifted the lid on the practice over a year ago when a Scot with multiple sclerosis and mental health problems was accidentally sent before-and-after copies of his assessment for a Personal Independence Payment (PIP) claim.

The paperwork had been submitted by a health professional after a face-to-face meeting, but was then secretly audited by officials without any follow up conversation.

Both versions were sent back, showing he would have qualified for additional support until his scores were lowered.

The altered copy removed a nurse’s observation that the man needed help to prepare a simple meal. References to his top being on inside out were removed.

The original said he has regular specialist input while the audit brazenly stated he has none.

This is not the only example. Last year, according to the Record, 2,300 claims were altered or refused.

In 460 cases, the applications were said to be unacceptable. In 1,840 more, the paperwork was amended to lower or remove the claimants’ entitlements.

In the benefit system, trust has always been a lopsided concept. The DWP questions everything claimants say, while they are supposed to accept every decision the DWP makes as fair and just.

And now we know that it simply isn’t true.

I guess it just proves the old adage that a liar won’t believe anybody else.

The big question is: what is to be done about this?

And – let’s be honest – why haven’t we done it already?

Source: Fury as ‘secret’ DWP checks see benefits claims marked down – Daily Record

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Trump’s ‘prophets of doom’ speech suggests the UK should NOT enter trade deal with him

Doom: While Donald Trump tells Davos nothing is wrong, the habitat of Australian species – like kangaroos – has been destroyed in fire. Do the flames have to be spreading up Pennsylvania Avenue before he’ll admit the facts?

If the UK enters a trade deal with Donald Trump, won’t it be joining an ‘axis of doom’ with one of the world’s principle climate crisis deniers?

That’s the message from his speech at Davos, where the US president made clear that he was not planning to change his country’s high-carbon economy.

The man who has absolute power to dominate, transform and control the lives of most people in the world decried climate protesters for demanding “absolute power to dominate, transform and control every aspect of our lives.”

That’s a bit hypocritical, isn’t it?

Oh, he said he’d sign up to an initiative to plant, restore and conserve a trillion trees – but hasn’t he noticed how all the trees seem to be catching fire, in the Amazon and Australia?

Climate crisis icon Greta Thunberg has – and she was at Davos where Mr Trump’s speech failed to impress her.

“Our house is still on fire. Your inaction is fuelling the flames by the hour, and we are telling you to act as if you loved your children above all else,” she said.

“You say: ‘We won’t let you down. Don’t be so pessimistic.’ And then, silence.”

And she asked: “What will you tell your children was the reason to fail and leave them facing… climate chaos that you knowingly brought upon them? That it seemed so bad for the economy that we decided to resign the idea of securing future living conditions without even trying?”

The trouble is, she has been saying this for more than a year and those in power haven’t lifted a finger; in other words, she’s right about them.

And history may view such people with extreme prejudice – as UK TV presenter Chris Packham made clear in a speech to TV executives at the annual Bafta television lecture.

He wasn’t afraid to name names, either. He said future generations may come to regard Mr Trump, Vladimir Putin, Jair Bolsonaro and Scott Morrison in a similar way as current generations see Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot, because by then they could have caused the deaths of millions of people.

But while the leaders pay nothing more than lip-service to action on climate change, UK prime minister Boris Johnson is inching closer to a trade deal with Mr Trump – one that, we’re told, will bind him into policies that deny the danger.

Already he has failed to seize opportunities to make a real difference.

Will he bottle it again – and sell us all down the river just so he can have a few American dollars?

Source: Davos: Trump decries climate ‘prophets of doom’ with Thunberg in audience – BBC News

Have YOU donated to my crowdfunding appeal, raising funds to fight false libel claims by TV celebrities who should know better? These court cases cost a lot of money so every penny will help ensure that wealth doesn’t beat justice.

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The Livingstone Presumption is now available
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