Today’s blog is from Marianne Cranwell, who in undertaking a PhD at the University of Dundee. Marianne talks about her PhD journey, and the changes that have happened along the way.

Hi, my name is Marianne, I am an ESRC funded PhD student in the school of Education and Social Work at the University of Dundee. I am in my 4-5th year of a part time PhD and my area of research is looking at the experiences of informal carers of people living with dementia, when paid home care begins. I am interested in hearing about how it feels for carers, when the type of care the person they support changes.  

Around 15 years ago I was desperate to leave university. The real world beckoned, and to this day I recall wholeheartedly rejoicing that I would never again in my entire life have to write an essay or sit an exam – freedom!

Well, six or seven years of working in social care, and becoming a mum, somehow eroded that jubilation and it was replaced by frustration, and curiosity. I found myself deeply frustrated by the situations that social care workers, and managers were being put in, under the reigning banner of value for money. Even now, I feel so angry at the budget driven approach that meant I was only allowed to spend 15-30 minutes with a person in their own home, where it felt as though physical maintenance of bodies was all that was required to care for them. I felt that too often budgets superseded the needs and wishes of people being supported and I decided that I could no longer contribute my time to that environment.

Although deeply disillusioned, I understood that the key to change was to learn more about how a financially driven culture had taken root in what ought (in my eyes) to be fundamentally person centred. I also found that I was increasingly curious about how the people who were experiencing these services, these life changing events, traumas, reliefs, saw the world, but it was never possible to ask these questions. Naturally, I finally succumbed to the reality that the path forward was through education.

And so I find myself here. An MRes, a second baby and a divorce later, in the middle of a pandemic, trying to recruit people who are amid one of the biggest social care crises since the beginning of its creation. But this is real life, and if I can’t see it at least partly as an opportunity to learn, I have wasted the past 10 years.

Of course, I have worries. For my PhD I have had to revise my methodology, especially my recruitment and data collection strategies and I am worried that without participants, I really don’t have much of a project. I desperately miss my partner, my friends, my poor (most certainly deceased) office fern. Crisis schooling, trying to engage with my university, and to just keep two children’s worlds together can be a strain, and I occasionally have to go for a wee cry in my garden hammock. But hey, I have a garden hammock. My small family and I are safe, warm and fed, I can study from home: I am extraordinarily lucky when my main role is to just hold tight.

No, my PhD won’t be the PhD I started, but isn’t that true of most PhDs? And yes, for now, ironically, my job is to write a really, really long essay.

I am always excited to talk about new ideas around social care, especially for older adults. I can be contacted on mcranwell@dundee.ac.uk  and you can find my project welcome video here: https://youtu.be/GlIGraPq6OY

Thank you so much for your time.

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