I am a parent of disabled teenager. My career has been interrupted, as has my academic path. My son is in and out of hospital and school. But now I am doing a PhD at a top UK university and am winning awards for my projects and am devising and teaching courses. Only problem, I can't get funding. I keep missing out on Studentships as they go to people half my age with straight A academic results. Well, this is what I am told. I think this is discrimination. Someone with my background - even with a brilliant, original research project - is never ever going to get a studentship if the decisive criteria is your undergraduate and MA results. Studentships are lucrative (16K a year in London) and people like me, in the, um, diversity and inclusion basket - are told to search through the Alternative Funding Guide and 'write lots of letters'. It would take a professional fundraiser a year at least to raise the same amount as a studentship! Does anyone have any experience of seeking funding as a carer doing a PhD, or even some good practice from their institution to share? I'm in the UK so UK examples would be most helpful to me.
My first years part time were funded by my part-time work in a related industry, but due to my teaching and PhD commitments, and Carer commitments, I haven't had time to seek more clients. So that's dried up. I also received a discretionary fund fee waiver for the fees - this wasn't an advertised hardship fund, this was a result of asking and asking until finally finding something was available. You are only supposed to apply to this once during your degree, but I have applied once again because there just is nothing else. Awaiting outcome.
I've had success with small funding for trips abroad to conferences and considerable success with funding for public engagement projects - but I can't pay my living costs or wages with that.
My supervisor thinks that my identity as a carer is something that we can't seem to escape from, so we it is something that will be addressed in my thesis (that's ok with me, and it sits nicely with my ambition to teach creative writing and to explore under-represented groups in film and tv).
I never intended to campaign on this issue, but since posting this question, I have been successful in getting the student union to take up the issue of Carers at our university as one of their priority vulnerable groups, and the first thing we will ask for is for Student Records to include Carers in the equality and diversity questions (not a statutory requirement for this data to be collected, but why not). Our university is behind others in offering support and recognition for carers. Secondly, within the graduate school, the student advisor I was talking to has recommended Carers be considered under the university's Widening Participation policy. And just the other day, I got to explain to the Vice Dean of the Faculty what a Carer is -- it's someone who looks after someone else who has a life limiting condition such as a disability or illness -- for more than 35 hours per week (that's the statuory number of hours in order to apply for Carer's Allowance, a means tested benefit).
So, no studentship yet but I have delegated my campaigning tendencies! I will keep this trail updated and hope others continue to contribute.