The morning of 14 June 2017 started like any other day. I arrived at my offices in Kensington early, coffee in hand, listening to the news bulletins on the radio. I had heard the reports of a fire nearby, but nothing could prepare me for the story that would unfold. Just a short time later, we understood the Grenfell Tower fire would be the worst tragedy Britain had endured in a generation.
I witnessed the aftermath in Kensington as a reporter. It was clear then, as it remains now, that the grief suffered by this community would take decades to still. But one glimmer of hope amid such darkness and failure was the superhuman effort of the public service response to the tragedy: the firefighters who were prepared to forfeit their own lives to enter the tower one more time; the social workers and community liaison officers on the ground that morning who took on extra cases to support in the aftermath; the teachers who coached and mentored and drafted in counsellors to offer extra support to pupils who lived in the shadow of the burnt-out block; the councillors and MPs who volunteered their time and went above and beyond any kind of job description to serve the public cause.
But despite the age of austerity ‘officially’ being over, deep cuts are still being felt keenly across the public sector, as documented by HuffPost UK in our series of reports What It’s Like To Lose. There are 1.1million fewer public sector workers today than in 2009. Millions haven’t had a real terms pay rise in nearly a decade, according to the TUC. And there will be a further £12billion cut in welfare spending by 2020/21, according to the Institute of Fiscal Studies.
This is why HuffPost UK is launching a new series to hear from those people at the heart of the public sector about life on the frontline. The Case I Can’t Forget is an opportunity to expose the real-world impact of these changes, and shine a light on the stories of sacrifice – the highs and lows of these jobs that ask so much for seemingly so little reward – in raw, honest detail.
In sourcing these pieces, we asked doctors, firefighters, police officers, teachers, nurses, probation officers, midwives and more to recount in their own words one significant case. It could be joyful, uplifting, surprising or sad, it didn’t matter. Above all, we just wanted it to be significant to them and to offer a window into the realities of the job.
So, what are the cases that have kept them up at night? The cases they have remembered throughout the years as their careers have developed? The cases that have changed their perspective on life, for better or worse. Who are the people they have encountered? The residents they take home in their thoughts after a long shift? The patients they still remember despite leaving a career in public service or retiring?
And, above all, who are these people toiling at the coalface as their jobs become harder, that teach us, nurse us, rescue us, keep us in society? Join us every Wednesday to find out.
The Case I Can’t Forget is a new series from HuffPost UK that hears from those on the frontline of public service about the cases they have carried with them throughout their careers. If you have a story you’d like to tell, email email@example.com.