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The IOP’s Physics Benevolent Fund: how it has helped

From Ukrainian refugees fleeing war to members with long-term health problems, the Fund is an invaluable source of income for many during trying times.

A selection of anonymised case studies of those supported by independent charity The Institute of Physics Benevolent Fund (the Fund).

A young member of the IOP ran into financial difficulties following the death of her father soon after graduation, and this was exacerbated by her being unable to find suitable employment. The Physics Benevolent Fund awarded her a small sum of money to help with her immediate financial situation, but also paid for her to attend a course of careers advice and personal development. On completion of the course, she found employment as a technician in a school, and subsequently gained a salaried teacher-training position at the same school.

A UK academic was diagnosed with a debilitating long-term disease relatively early in his career. As his personal health situation deteriorated his wife became his carer and consequently came under severe stress with little opportunity for even a short holiday. The Benevolent Fund provided the financial means for the husband to be taken into respite care for a fortnight annually, enabling his wife the opportunity to take a short break from her responsibilities as a carer.

A member of the IOP developed severe mobility problems in middle age and was unable to get out and about. The Fund purchased a motorised mobility scooter which he was given on loan. His life has been transformed as he has been able to visit the world beyond the confines of his house.

The Fund was contacted by a UK university to see whether it could help with resolving the severe difficulties of two sisters. The economy of their home country had collapsed, and all funds from both the government and family had stopped almost instantly. Both sisters had performed outstandingly in their undergraduate studies, but it seemed that both would have to withdraw from university. After considerable discussions between the university and the Fund, it was arranged that each sister would be given immediate funds for living expenses by the Fund, be charged a lower fee for the future duration of study by the university and be loaned the money to pay the fees by the Fund. Subsequently both sisters graduated with first-class honours and moved on to postgraduate studies. One is now working and beginning to repay the loan.

A senior physicist from Ukraine fled the near-continuous bombing of Kharkiv and the partial destruction of his laboratory. He was offered accommodation in France by a colleague. He was too old to obtain work in France but was awarded €8 per day subsistence by the French authorities. The Benevolent Fund awarded him a small amount of money for immediate support to cover his expenses until he managed to sort out the situation.

Buildings in Kharkiv, Ukraine damaged, with the windows blown out

Damaged buildings in Kharkiv, Ukraine, May 2022

A physicist fled Kharkiv with her teenage son because of the war in Ukraine. She first went to Poland where there was financial support for her son but none for an adult. By this time her salary had ceased being paid after an initial period on half-salary and she and her son then went as refugees to Finland. Next they were sent to Lapland with €500 per month allowance and free accommodation in a hostel apartment shared with two other families. There was no work available in northern Finland so she wanted to move to Helsinki to find work. Given that she and her son would keep their monthly allowance, the Benevolent Fund awarded €2,000 to help her relocate to Helsinki, and to buy warm clothes for the winter.

Due to the COVID-19 crisis a PhD student was unable to access her research laboratory for six months. The research project was almost wholly experiment-based. To compound the difficulty the vital instrument for the research malfunctioned and had to be sent for repair. Ironically such an instrument could also be used for COVID-19 research and consequently there was a long delay in carrying out the repair because of pandemic-related demands. The student needed finance to extend the period of study. The Benevolent Fund administers the Roland Dobbs Fund, which was established to help PhD students overcome financial difficulties. Monies from this latter fund were made available to allow completion of the PhD within the extension period.

A long-term member of the IOP (she joined in 1966) had to give up her car since she suffers severely from osteoarthritis, but she still required some form of transport. Her pension income was completely inadequate to purchase a mobility scooter to transform her situation. The Benevolent Fund awarded her the money to buy a scooter.

A member of the IOP fell seriously ill at the beginning of the pandemic. His son received a travel exemption from the Australian government on compassionate grounds to visit his father in the UK. The father died a short time after the arrival of his son. Having helped his mother with all the funeral arrangements the son prepared to return to Australia. Unfortunately, by then, COVID-19 restrictions had tightened, flights became harder to get, and hotel quarantine a requirement. The son lost his job because of the effects of COVID-19, and financial problems ensued. At his request the Benevolent Fund paid for his flight ticket and offered to pay the cost of the hotel quarantine. And, by the time the return home became possible, restrictions had been partially lifted and he was able to return home with no further costs.

An aerial shot of seven grounded planes at a terminal at Sydney Airport

Grounded planes at Sydney Airport, April 2020

A member of the IOP who is registered blind relies totally on a comprehensive computer system to keep in contact with the world and to pursue his research, which uses computer modelling. His computer stopped working and was beyond repair. His only income was his state pension, universal credit and a disability pension. He had no savings or assets. The Benevolent Fund awarded him the money to purchase the computer system needed for someone who is registered blind, together with a processor which enabled the continuation of his mathematical modelling.

A member of the Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine had been diagnosed with breast cancer, but it was then confirmed that the cancer had spread to her brain. It was inevitable that there was a short life expectancy. A request was made for help to purchase an adjustable bed and chair to enable her to move back home to be with her husband and three children. Given that the family’s resources were stretched, the Fund moved quickly to provide the money necessary.

A recent PhD graduate moved abroad to take up a fellowship awarded to him. Unfortunately the working environment was poor – causing him mental health problems. He resigned his fellowship and returned to the UK with no employment. He was able to call on family help for accommodation. Subsequently he was offered a position in the US, meaning he had to ship his property from where he held the fellowship to the US. Since he did not have the money to do this, the Benevolent Fund loaned him the shipping cost. As soon as he had successfully settled into his new post, he repaid the loan in full.

How to apply

To apply for support from the Physics Benevolent Fund, please complete the application form (DOC, 29KB) and send it to [email protected]. If you need the form in a different language, please advise by email.