Developing provision

While certain models of AA provision have historically been dominant, there is currently insufficient evidence to identify a single best approach to be adopted. Decisions on the approach to be adopted should take account of the local context and be driven by a focus on outcomes rather than process. To help guide decision-making, this section sets out a number of recommended strategic principles, practical considerations, information about existing models and examples of their application.

Strategic principles

In developing an approach, the following principles should be considered as a foundation for decision-making.

Provision must be independent of policing and there should be no real or perceived conflicts of interest. 

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Provision must accurately reflect the purpose and boundaries of appropriate adults in the justice system. 

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Appropriate adult provision must have adequate resources for leadership, coordination, development and delivery; preserve existing funding and work in partnership to enhance it where required.

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There should be a clear and effective framework for monitoring and accountability, free from conflicts of interest. 

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The monitoring and evaluation of appropriate adult provision should include on outcomes for vulnerable people, not simply measures of process and output.

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Quality outcomes for vulnerable people should be achieved in the most efficient way possible.

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Appropriate adult provision and/or commissioning should be integrated into existing responsibilities, skills, structures, services and partnerships.

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Geographical scope

Appropriate adult services have historically been arranged at local authority level as part of the social work function (for adults) and the YOT function (for people under 18)[1]. The large majority of current AA schemes remain organised and funded at local authority level.

Depending on the local context, this approach may have a number of potential benefits.

  • Integration with other local services may be preferred over alignment with a police area.
  • The scheme can focus on the needs of the local area and there is direct control over preferred key performance indicators
  • There is greater opportunity for a local scheme co-ordinator to develop effective working relationships with key contacts in the police and other related services
  • Services are sustainable irrespective of decisions in other local authority areas
  • Simpler and quicker to integrate with other services, developing local partnerships, information sharing agreements and referral pathways
  • People tend to be motivated to volunteer in their local community

Where existing arrangements are effective at the single local authority level, developers / commissioners should consider the risks, as well as the potential benefits, before pursuing a wider geographical scope.

[1] There are 152 principal local authorities in England and Wales. They have responsibility for adult social care. This includes county, unitary and metropolitan borough councils and excludes district councils. 

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Where provision takes place at a local authority level (whether in-house or commissioned) there are still possibilities for collaboration across local authority areas.

  • Collaboration over key performance indicators
  • Joint performance reviews

In some areas, contracts are let at a local level but the same provider has been used. This has, in effect, meant the sharing of overheads without joint commissioning.

Case study: Kent and Medway
Volunteer AA services are commissioned separately by two bordering local authorities, which together happen to make up Kent Police force area. The two contracts use different key performance indicators but the same provider is commissioned in both areas. For both children and adults and performance reviews are held jointly.
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In some areas local authorities have pooled resources to develop multi-area services. The key drivers for this appear to be:

  • Decreasing costs by reducing the replication of fixed overheads (i.e. scheme leadership and administration).
  • Responding to changes in the police custody estate, for example whereby local police stations have closed in favour of larger facilities that serve multiple local authorities. (It should be remembered that voluntary interviews may not take place in custody facilities)
  • Responding to increases in demand for AAs for adults due to improved identification
  • Aligning with wider collaboration between specific local authorities
  • Engaging with a wider set of co-funders and/or commissioners
  • Responding to significant cross-border crime

Generating efficiency savings may provide a local area to reinvest in improving the service to meet required needs and standards. For example, this could help to fund an extension of operating hours or adding adult provision to a children-only service.

Potential challenges associated with this approach include: -

  • Each local authority becomes dependent on the financial decisions of the other(s). Where an AA service is only sustainable due to the combined resources of multiple local authorities, a decision to reduce or remove funding in one area may lead to the failure of the service in one or more others.
  • Partnership development involves the investment of considerable resources, which may negate the intended efficiency savings.
  • Key performance indicators must be agreed across partners
  • Information sharing may become significantly more complex and there may be significant differences in referral pathways
  • Preferred providers with strong local links may not have the authorisation, capacity or desire to scale up and expand into other areas
  • Areas with a high population density and volume of demand may be difficult to manage beyond the local level.
Case study: Bristol, South Gloucestershire, and Bath and North East Somerset
The three local authorities collaborated to reconfigure children's AA services in response to the opening of two large custody facilities. Bristol YOT manages volunteers as a single service but volunteers are recruited in two teams in the areas around the custody suites. Different providers are used for adult AA provision


Case study: Hampshire, Portsmouth, Southampton and Isle of Wight
Hampshire County Council led a joint commissioning project on behalf of the four local authorities within the Hampshire Constabulary area. The contract covers all children and almost all adults across the entire force area. The Isle of Wight chose not to fund a service for adults
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While in some areas a police force area covers a single local authority (e.g. Norfolk) others cover multiple areas. For example, there are:

  • 5 local authorities are within the Avon and Somerset Police area
  • 10 local authorities are within the Greater Manchester Police area
  • 32 local authorities, are within the Metropolitan Police area (City of London Police cover ‘the Square Mile’).

The potential benefits and challenges are similar to those for local authority collaborations that do not cover an entire force area. However, the additional specific benefits are: -

  • Clarity on responsibility for provision
  • A single point of contact for police officers.

Where the force area includes a large number of local authorities, the challenges of a combined approach increase. There may be limits to the extent to which increasing size brings about savings (see Estimating Costs: Efficiency).  

Case study: West Yorkshire (Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees, Leeds, Wakefield
Leeds YOT has acted as lead commissioner for a single volunteer-led AA scheme for children and adults across the five local authorities in the West Yorkshire Police area. The collaboration is supported by West Yorkshire Police and the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner. It seeks to build on a number of existing successful volunteer schemes in the area, retaining experience appropriate adults while increasing coverage and consistency. The scheme will go live from April 2018
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Leadership and co-ordination

An effective AA service requires effective leadership, co-ordination and administration. The quality of the scheme’s leader, and the amount of time dedicated to the role, will be a defining element of the effectiveness of the scheme.

Scheme leaders drive the improvement of AA provision. They provide the interface with the National Appropriate Adult Network, providing the scheme with access to support and expertise.  They are a critical conduit for resources developed and shared at the national level.

The personal relationships between a scheme leader and AAs should not be under-estimated, particularly in relation to volunteers. Effective scheme leaders spend significant amounts of time on building strong relationships with and between teams of AAs. Volunteers often become very loyal to their co-ordinator. Developers seeking to change existing arrangements should bear in mind that the support of existing, experienced AAs may be critical to their success and cannot be taken for granted. 

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AAs will need to be recruited, not only initially but as vacancies arise and demand shifts. They will require induction training and on-going professional development.

They will face complex cases which require advice, time-consuming ones that require co-ordinated hand-overs, and emotionally draining ones that require support and even counselling.

A scheme leader will be necessary to assist AAs and the police in dealing both with immediate issues and strategic development.

Depending on the model, they may also be available to attend custody where there are unexpected gaps in a rota or extremely complex or high-profile cases.

Scheme leaders can also provide a point of contact for service users, whether it be to clarify information, make a complaint or provide positive feedback. 

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Appropriate adults

Volunteer appropriate adults are used in many AA schemes for adults in England and Wales, as well as the whole of Northern Ireland.

Volunteers bring community involvement, passion and commitment to the role. The experience and skill level of people attracted as volunteers often far exceeds the market rate usually available for a paid AA. The role often attracts retired professionals and advanced students of related subjects (note: non-local students may only be available in term time and may not remain with the scheme after graduation limiting their ability to develop significant experience).

A paid co-ordinator (and for larger schemes additional paid staff) will be necessary. Volunteering must be managed with skill to avoid the unintended creation of contracts with AAs. The time of volunteers cannot be assumed - they are acting on good will. There will need to be particular investment of time, energy and care in people who volunteer. 

Depending on the volume of demand and the approach to recruitment, a relatively large pool of volunteers may be required to ensure a rota is always filled. It will usually be necessary for a paid coordinator, or a sessional worker, to be prepared to cover any gap.

In some areas, volunteer schemes will have to have a very proactive approach to diversity as the pool of volunteers may not automatically be representative of the local community or people served.

Investing in Volunteers (IiV) is the UK quality standard for good practice in volunteer management.

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Paying appropriate adults provides an opportunity to have a smaller number of AAs. This may mean that they fulfil the role more regularly, developing expertise and expertise more quickly.

There may also be a lower turnover of staff, though the loss of a single AA may have greater impact on the service. A lower turnover rate means reduced time and money spent on recruitment and initial training.

Scheme leaders may find it easier and less time consuming to manage a small number of people who are under contractual obligations.

It may be easier to achieve diversity by offering paid positions.

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The actual and perceived independence of AAs (by vulnerable suspects, courts and the wider public) is critical to the effectiveness of the AA system and the legitimacy of the justice system. A lack of independence may:

  • render evidence inadmissible at court even where an AA was present;
  • give rise to conflicts of interest;
  • limit the extent to which a vulnerable person will engage or trust their AA
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An AA must be a person who is independent of the police. This means that that are not influenced or controlled in any way by the police.

The law

PACE Code C (1.7, 1F) and Code H (1.13, 1F) specify that the appropriate adult may not be:

  • a police officer;
  • a person employed by the police;
  • a person who is under the direction or control of the chief officer of a police force;
  • a person who provides services under contractual arrangements to assist that force in relation to the discharge of its chief officer’s functions;

PACE 1984 Act sections 63B and 66ZA (as amended by the Policing and Crime Act 2017 section 80) state that an appropriate adult may not be a person employed for, or engaged on, police purposes.

PACE 1984 section 77 (Confessions by mentally handicapped persons) states that “independent person” does not include a police officer or a person employed for, or engaged on, police purposes.

Police Act 1996 section 101(2)(c) states that “police purposes” in relation to a police area, includes civilians employed for the purposes of that force.

Changes to PACE Code C consulted on by the Home Office (December 2017) include the requirement that: "An appropriate adult who is not a parent or guardian in the case of a juvenile, or a relative, guardian or carer in the case of a vulnerable adult, must be independent of the police as their role is to safeguard the rights and entitlements of a detained person".

Effective practice

However, compliance with the minimum legal requirements on who may act as the AA, does not equate to effective practice. For example, the PACE rules: -

  • include no requirement for training or even basic knowledge of the role;
  • include no requirement for vetting the quality or suitability of a person beyond their being a ‘responsible adult’;
  • include no requirement that the person is known to the vulnerable person or knows anything about them;
  • include no test of person's attitude towards police or their motivations for fulfilling the role. 

PACE does not specify all possible conflicts of interest and consequent risks. Approaches that are legally compliant may still create situations that may be contrary to a vulnerable suspect’s best interests. For example:

  • when strip searching an 11 year old boy a police officer could technicallycomply with the PACE Codes by asking an adult male stranger, who happens to be walking past the custody suite, to act as the AA;
  • an AA may agree to fulfill the role because they wish to to assist the police achieve their objectives;
  • a person acting as an AA may be seeking future employment with the police and wish to avoid conflict with them. 

Developers / commissioners should ensure that the model they select avoids any potential conflicts of interest or confusion with other roles.  The chosen approach should seek to minimise actual or perceived:

  • association with the police
  • involvement with any other services in custody or matters occurring in the investigation.


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Funding, commissioning and delivery should build upon and avoid conflict with existing statutory duties such as the:

  • Care Act 2014
  • Autism Act 2009
  • Equality Act 2010
  • Police Reform and Social Responsibility Act 2011
  • Crime and Disorder Act 1998

See There to Help Paper B for a full analysis of relevant existing legislation and statutory duties.

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The AA is a specific defined role and it is critical that it is not confused with other role (see Independence).

However, local areas should consider how AA services could be integrated into existing strategies, policies, partnerships, structures, responsibilities, services, and skill-sets that support the same groups of people. For example, this may include: 

There is value in established local networks at the delivery level. For example:

  • where there is existing provision, existing personnel may have established working relationships that are key to the effectiveness of the scheme;
  • an AA provider with other local services may be able to generate referrals in police custody and so deliver better outcomes elsewhere (e.g. services aimed at mental health outcomes or reducing re-offending). 

The Bradley Report (2009) considered AA provision as part of an integrated system of different services. It saw regional and local partnerships as critical to delivering this integrated vision and provided the following guidance. 

bradley strategy

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AA schemes need to be flexible in order to achieve their outcomes. 

They are expected to provide a quick response when a vulnerable person is detained and may experience long detention times.

While simple cases may need an AA to attend only once and for a relatively short time, a more complex case might require more than one call out or a long stay in custody. It’s not always clear from the outset how complex or long a case will be, so a service will need to have the flexibility to respond to the dynamic needs of the situation.

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Long cases

Ideally, a single AA will support a person throughout their entire detention period. In longer cases, AAs can take their long rest period at the same time at the person who has been detained.  However, in some cases this may not be possible. The design of the scheme will have to be able to respond to this with a robust handover process that minimises the detrimental effect on the person being supported.

"It is also recommended that an AA should not normally be expected to be at a police station for longer than 8 hours in total with proper breaks. Overlap and back-up systems will need to be in place to enable a handover should this become necessary".

Travel times

Travel times may be relatively fixed where a scheme:

  • is delivered by professionals from a central base (e.g. YOT officers or charity workers travelling from their office); and
  • is serving fixed custody suites (and non-custody police stations for voluntary interviews)

However, greater flexibility will be required where:

  • a commissioned service uses AAs who travel from their home or other location; and
  • voluntary interviews are carried out in a range of locations (e.g. people's homes).  

Remote representations

The PACE Codes explicitly require the AA to be physically present for many procedures.

However, the AA is entitled to make representations to the custody officer on reviews of detentions remotely. This could be via a phone call or an email to the relevant officer. The officer has a duty to inform the AA of when the review will take place. 

It should be noted that detention reviews principally involve communication with the police, rather than the person being supported. Procedures that involve communication with a vulnerable suspect can be severely inhibited if the AA is not present. In such matters, remote support is unlikely to be compatible with achieving the necessary outcomes. Scheme developers / commissioners will need to be clear about their expectations in terms of the level of service to provided. 

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Operating hours

This section provides guidance on responding to the needs identified in the demand assessment phase (see Time of day section). Operating hours are often a source of tension between identified need, budget and practical considerations and can present a considerable challenge. However, failure to ensure the availabilty of AAs out of office hours has been linked to unecessary overnight detentions.

Scheme developers /commissioners should carefully consider:

  • the statutory duty of local authorities to ensure provision for children;
  • the operating hours required to achieve the outcomes of AA provision;
  • the costs associated with provision and co-ordination/backup;
  • how situations will be handled in which an AA determines that it is not fair to conduct a procedure (such as an interview) with a vulnerable person at a given time (such as in the middle of the night);
  • what steps can be taken to ensure cases involving vulnerable suspects are expedited.

Data on demand levels in custody by time/day (gained during the assessment of demand phase) can be useful in judging what level of provision will be required. However, it should be remembered that this data is historical, and therefore represents practice in the context of existing AA provision. It may be necessary to get more qualitative data to understand how police behaviour might change if AAs were available at any time.  

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The NAAN national standards (2013) state that, "As a general rule an AA service should be provided from whatever source from around 8am to midnight 365 days a year."

The standards were designed to take account of the realities of how schemes had been commissioned. The majority of existing AA schemes have limited hours of operation. A survey of NAAN-registered AA schemes (2017) provides an indication of current operating hours across the country for child AA services. 

Chart: Percentage of AA schemes normally operational in the preceding hour 

operating hours child

However, recent years have seen a growing awareness of the negative impact of limiting the hours during which AAs are available. Many schemes represented above will have an exceptional case protocol with police, either as a written agreement or an unofficial working arrangement.

The NAAN national standards are due for revision by March 2018. Hours of operation is one area which has been identified as in need of update. 


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A growing number of funders, commissioners, and providers have worked collaboratively to develop a 24/7/365 model of provision.

Case study: Surrey
Surrey County Council commissioned a 24 hours a day, 365 days a year service, providing AAs for both children and vulnerable adults via up to 80 volunteers. AAs normally arrived at the custody suite within an hour. Custody staff valued the service highly. The provider found that by being clear about the expectations from the outset of the recruitment process, the volunteers who were recruited were willing to operate these hours.

Areas known to have 24/7 provision are:

  • Barnsley (adults and children)
  • Brent (Adults)
  • Cambridgeshire (adults and children)
  • Cornwall (Children)
  • County Durham (Adults)
  • Croydon (Children)
  • Cumbria (Adults)
  • Derby (adults and children)
  • Derbyshire (adults and children)
  • Doncaster (adults and children)
  • East Sussex (Adults)
  • Enfield (adults and children)
  • Greenwich (Adults)
  • Hammersmith and Fulham (Adults)
  • Haringey (Adults)
  • Hartlepool (Adults)
  • Herefordshire (adults and children)
  • Isles of Scilly (Children)
  • Islington (Children)
  • Jersey (adults and children)
  • Kingston upon Thames (Children)
  • Lambeth (adults and children)
  • Leicester (Adults)
  • Lewisham (adults and children)
  • Lewisham (Adults)
  • Merton (adults and children)
  • Middlesbrough (Adults)
  • Milton Keynes (Children)
  • Newham (Children)
  • Redcar and Cleveland (Adults)
  • Richmond upon Thames (Children)
  • Rotherham (Adults)
  • Rutland (Adults)
  • Sheffield (adults and children)
  • Shropshire (Adults)
  • South Tyneside (Children)
  • Stockton-on-Tees (Adults)
  • Telford and Wrekin (Adults)
  • Torbay (Children)
  • Warwickshire (Adults)
  • West Sussex (Adults)
  • Worcestershire (Adults)
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Some concern has been raised about enabling the interviewing of vulnerable people late at night.

The argument is that it is not appropriate to enable interviews late at night when a suspect, already deemed vulnerable, will not be fully alert. Therefore, 24 hour AA services are not required. 

However, there are a number of reasons why this cannot be used as a blanket justification to limit services to hours which are more convenient for providers. 

  • It is of course critical that vulnerable people are not made more vulnerable by virtue of lack of rest.
  • An effective AA would indeed seek to prevent an interview from taking place if they considered it was being conducted in any circumstances that would disadvantage the suspect. 
  • The normal waking hours of some individuals will vary significantly from office hours. It is by no means certain that a 16 year old will be alert at 9am or exhausted at 1am.
  • An AA should be as aware of the risk of exhaustion early in the morning (when they themselves are alert) as at night.
  • An AA cannot assess the alertness of a person without first attending them in custody. 
  • A blanket policy can lead to underiable outcomes, such as a child or adultbeing detained overnight uneccessarily.

See Assessing demand / Time of day for additional information. 

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Views against 24/7 services are often related to concerns about police not expediting custody cases involving suspects for whom an AA is required.

This is something that is considered to be a greater risk where police are confident that they can call an AA whenever their processes require one.

The need to complete cases before an AA scheme closes (for example at 10pm) can have the effect of ensuring children and vulnerable adults are dealt with and released rather than kept overnight.

Similarly, effective AAs can, where absolutely necessary and in a reasonable manner, indicate to police that they will withdraw their services at a certain time in order to ensure a case is expedited. This is a relatively rare action but a very important one in ensuring the right that detention be used for the minimum time necessary. 

Scheme developers / commissioners should keep in mind that the primary purpose of 24/7 AA services is to respond to the needs of the child or adult suspect. 24/7 provision should not equate to AA services being at the 'beck and call' of individual officers. While police clearly benefit from access to an organised scheme, it should be clear to whom the service is being provided. 

When developing a scheme, consideration should be given to current and future police practice with regard to expediting custody cases that require an AA. 

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Out of hours provision can pose a significant challenge whichever model is selected. However, the exact nature of that challenge will depend in part on what model is being used. For example:

  • In schemes using core staff (such as YOT officers), AAs are not normally available beyond office hours;
  • Schemes relying on Emergency Duty Teams for out of hours coverage may find the EDT has limited resources which it directs to other matters which it considers higher priority
  • Commissioned schemes may find it more difficult to recruit AAs and will have to ensure there are staff available for provide the backup function at all times. 
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Information sharing

High quality, timely information sharing between social care and the AA both before and after detention can deliver better outcomes. Appropriate adults who have access to information regarding a vulnerable person before they attend are better placed to provide them with support. Information provided by an appropriate adult after providing support can inform longer term care for the vulnerable person, reducing the risk of future contact with police.

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For AAs based within local authorities (e.g. YOT staff and social workers), this is a relatively simple exercise. They will often have direct access to relatively large amounts of information on a vulnerable person.

Where providers are commissioned, information sharing can be more complex and requires more consideration. As public services increasingly work with commissioned partners, this challenge may not be unfamiliar to commissioing teams. There may be templates from other commissioned services which can be adopted. However, even with data-sharing agreements in place, there may be limits to what can be shared with external partners or practical challenges in making the process work effectively.

In selecting an approach, developers / commissioners should consider:

  • what information is relevant
  • where it is stored
  • how it might accessed and updated.
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Existing provision

It is important to establish whether there is already some provision in place as this may have a significant impact on costs and decisions around service design.

When determining need, a full assessment should be made of the extent to which any current provision is meeting that need currently. 

Information regarding current provision may be gained from:

  • existing providers (there may be several covering different groups or times);
  • past providers (there may recently been a scheme that is now defunct);
  • HMIC/HMIP inspections of police custody (these usually comment on AA provision though are limited by the fact that AA providers are outside of their scope);
  • Independent Custody Visitors reports (ICVs report to the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner).
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If there is existing provision, options include:

  • enhancement of the existing service
  • a separate complementary service
  • an entirely new replacement service covering all needs.

For example, there may be a successful in-house service but which only operates in office hours and during the week. If this is the case, options would include:

  • extending the current schemes operating hours
  • a discrete out of hours and weekends service
  • or developing a new service to cover all hours.

Before deciding to replace an existing service there should be a full consideration of the risks and whether they can be mitigated.  These may include risks associated with: -

  • loss of experienced leadership with local links; 
  • loss of experienced AAs; 
  • TUPE responsibilities (Transfer of Undertakings (Protection of Employment) Regulations 2006).
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