When we think back to 1966, the first thing that pops into our heads is the infamous football match between England and Germany – everything seems irrelevant, which shouldn’t be the case.
Ken Loach who directed Cathy Come Home had transformed the television play into a Panorama-like documentary that highlighted the need for change.
I always compare the housing sector to Shakespeare’s plays since something always happens; whether good, bad or absurd. Cathy Come Home exemplifies this with Jeremy Sandford’s writing being almost a homage to the bard himself, as the screenplay is filled with tragedy, after tragedy, after tragedy – a reflection of life’s frailty.
A reference from the production mentions that support with housing is only available to the “Cinderella of the Cinderellas,” – this is further from the truth.
Just like the story of the glass slipper, Loach’s legacy shows how fragile life can be and what we take from the ending is that all the superglue in the world couldn’t put her life back together again- not in 1966, as the word “support” and its actions were truly non-existent.
Although things have improved immensely with new policies and laws in place to protect and support those most vulnerable, there’s no denying that individuals and families are still faced with experiences similar to Cathy, which impact on their lives and future wellbeing.
Words such as Housing Crisis, Affordable Housing, Poverty and Homelessness are echoes of Post-World War II’s economic impact when resurrecting the UK from the ashes, which begs the question, if we will ever be able to lose the chains of debt that are engraved “Our Country’s Deficit” and more importantly – will those who are dependent on the support from welfare be restricted even further? Will we have a generation of Cathys?
The Housing Crisis has meant that there’s a lack of housing, which has caused many to struggle and left feeling frustrated in a housed-in-limbo state with generations of the same family living under one roof; creating a toxic atmosphere and eventual family rifts.
Unaffordable Housing has resulted in those renting or trying to get onto the property ladder unable to access the housing market successfully; the prices are out of reach, financial instability can’t guarantee security of a mortgage and the fees set by letting agents are extortionate and unfair. Plus the living wage is far from liveable, which leaves people unable to save their money.
There are many kinds of Poverty affecting families in the UK, for instance, having a house has many responsibilities including paying the bills for the essentials including heating, water and electricity; the pinch to welfare reform cuts off the oxygen to only the bare necessities, leaving families balancing their options, to either keeping the family warm or letting them have a shower. The most devastating effect from the last Government has been the dramatic increase in foodbanks and it has been revealed that food poverty is worse in the UK than any other European country.
Homelessness was a reality in 1966 and it’s still a reality today. It can hit anyone, at any time!
There are many reasons why families are made homeless and it’s normally through no fault of their own, such as financial instability because of zero-hour contracts, escaping domestic abuse, mental health illnesses preventing employment or even being kicked out of the family home simply because that person happens to be gay.
There needs to be more support in preventing homelessness – not after it’s already happened.
I don’t believe that there’s enough work being done in “pre-homelessness” which is when people facing homelessness feel at their most vulnerable.
Immediate support for Cathy would have ceased everything else that followed. Although, no government measures in prevention were made, which was why Loach’s work was so important in revolutionising how we view the welfare state.
Thank you Cathy
Cathy Come Home was the stepping stone for change and assisted in establishing Shelter (now Shelter England) and the following year CRISIS was formed. Both organisations were revolutionary at the time in regards to supporting individuals and families facing homelessness or going through a life crisis – just like Cathy did.
In Memory of Carol White