Fifty years since Cathy Come Home: critical reflections on the UK homelessness safety net

Suzanne Fitzpatrick*, Hal Pawson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


It's 50 years since the classic BBC drama on homelessness, Cathy Come Home, was first broadcast. Despite an immediate public outcry, another decade was to elapse before the Housing (Homeless Persons) Act 1977 was passed in an attempt to provide permanent solutions for homeless families like those of the eponymous Cathy. Against the odds, this unique statutory safety net has subsequently survived almost 40 years of Conservative, Labour and Coalition governments. This policy review traces the history of the legislation, before considering current debates and future directions for this very British model. The main focus is on England, but attention is given to recent developments in Scotland and, especially, in Wales. We argue that it is high time to address the exclusion of single people from the main entitlements of the legislation in England, and to take account of the realities of the informal ‘preventative’ approaches that now shape local authority practice throughout the UK.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)543-555
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal of Housing Policy
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 6 Oct 2016


  • homelessness
  • homelessness prevention
  • housing policy
  • housing rights
  • social welfare

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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