And so, after all the hype and hullabaloo, what remains? ‘Cathy Come Home’ appears to have been the best loved and most influential play of the twentieth century but it is not for that that I am proud of it.
It is for the actual social change that ‘Cathy’ appears to have caused. That ‘Cathy’, so social workers have urged me to believe, caused an actual change in the way people who had fallen foul of our social structures would be perceived by what are now known as the ‘caring’ professions, and by the public as a whole.
The feckless ne’er do well, foul mouthed scrubber epithets for those decent people who were victims of the housing famine would from then on be far less often heard or used, and ‘Cathy’ can take quite a lot of the credit for that.
From now on people were better treated in more and more hostels for the homeless and the dread nine p.m. curfew was lifted in an increasing number of places. ‘Cathy’, I believe it can be shown, was largely responsible for that.
Soon after ‘Cathy’, directly inspired by the play I’m sure, there was a specific government pledge to see that 500,000 new homes were built each year.
Shelter, the National Campaign for the homeless, was not set up because of ‘Cathy’, although many people believe it was. However, ‘Cathy’ gave them tremendous strategic backup and added immensely to the effectiveness of this hard-hitting charity when they opened three weeks after the first transmission of ‘Cathy’.
In Birmingham, hundreds of husbands and partners were returned to the women and children from whom they had been separated in hostels for the homeless, in time for Christmas. Other places followed suit so that soon the dreadful custom of separating men from their women and children just because they were homeless was brought to an end. That, I believe, can be shown to be because of ‘Cathy’.
And then thee were the 4,000 children each year who, because of homelessness and for no other reason, were being separated from their mothers and taken into the often dreadful circumstances of care. This horror was to be brought to an end and this, I believe it can be shown, was in response to new government policies which themselves were directly as a result of ‘Cathy’.
It is these things, tangible benefits to my fellow human beings and a direct thankyou on my part for that privileged and joyful world into which I was born, which makes me proud, if for nothing else, that I wrote ‘Cathy Come Home’.
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