Has Cathy come home – 50 years on?
In November 1966, a short play was screened on BBC TV called “Cathy Come Home” following a family who became homeless. I am not old enough to recall the original screening, although I have since watched it. I do though know of the impact it had on the British public, which was one of outrage and concern.
The play was seminal, in that it changed the way the UK deals with homeless people. As a result, many Housing Associations were formed on the back of increased funding made available by Government, the campaign group Crisis was created and we saw homeless legislation for the first time.
One of North Star’s subsidiaries, Endeavour Housing Association is a 1974 “Cathy Come Home” organisation with very proud roots. We shall of course use the anniversary to raise issues of homelessness and failing public policy. In 1998 Cathy Come Home was voted the best single television drama, and in 2000 it was rated as the second best British television programme ever made (Fawlty Towers was number one…!).
It is coincidental, that Ken Loach in his 80th year and the Director of Cathy Come Home has released a new film, “I, Daniel Blake” that charts the harrowing experience of people navigating the punitive British welfare system. It is also coincidental that the Homeless Reduction Bill has passed its second reading in the House of Commons after winning support from MPs across the benches. The Bill still has some way to go before it becomes law, but we are all hopeful.
Some 50 years on, we still have nearly 4,000 people sleeping rough which is more than double the number recorded in 2010. Much has been achieved to assist those in housing need over the last 50 years and we have a lot to be proud of, however, it seems we still have some way to go. Let’s hope the next Ken Loach film is called “Homelessness – a Distant Memory”.